BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Energy is life. The way we capture, store, and produce energy for our modern world is an expanding landscape that is as much dependent on new technology as it is a new way of thinking.
“Louisiana is an oil and gas state, and we’re very proud of that, but we are also starting to become a leader in the alternative fuel market,” said Randy Hayden, President of Louisiana Clean Fuels.
The traditional fuel sources that set our world in motion and energizes our local economy is also contributing to global climate change.
“In the coming decades, Louisiana will become warmer, and both floods and droughts may become more severe,” states the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “Unlike most of the nation, Louisiana did not become warmer during the last century. But soils have become drier, annual rainfall has increased, more rain arrives in heavy downpours, and sea level is rising.”
CO2 is the driving force behind climate change because it accounts for 81 percent of greenhouse gas, which traps heat in the atmosphere.
“When I first started at Louisiana Clean Fuels in 2012, our organization was only reporting a few thousand gallons of alternative fuel usage a year. We are now offsetting over 9 million gallons of petroleum with fuels like natural gas, propane and electricity, and through advanced technologies and practices like idle-reduction, fuel efficient vehicles,” said Ann Vail, Executive Director of Louisiana Clean Fuels.
In the private sector, electric cars are becoming more practical options for consumers. But five years ago, the sell was a little tougher due to the lack of charging access. To make it more attractive, Baton Rouge added electric car charging stations in various locations across the city.
“Anyone with an electric vehicle can come in, they can park their car there, plug it in, they don’t have to do anything else,” said Scott Barrios, Senior Account Manager at Entergy. “Plug in and walk away and their car’s being charged for free on behalf of Entergy and the city of Baton Rouge.”
Bridging the gap between the public and the private sector is a large part of what Vail and her team does at Louisiana Clean Fuels.
“We’re not an industry group, we’re here to help,” she said. “We want to give our stakeholders the best information possible so they can make informed decisions and have the best experience possible.”
Fleet vehicles such as school buses, garbage trucks, and public transportation are the everyday workhorses that can toe the line of progress.
“If someone has a bad experience with an alternative fuel vehicle, that’s going to leave a bad taste in their mouth for decades. We’re trying to avoid those situations by giving them the best information possible,” Vail said.
Propane, for example, may not get as much attention in the alternative fuel vehicle headlines, but while the clean-burning fuel will always be invaluable for our crawfish boils, it’s making news across America’s school systems as a transportation fuel of choice for school busses.
“Thanks to the Louisiana VW Settlement, we now have more than 200 school busses across the state bringing children from home to school and back in a clean, efficient and environmentally productive way,” said Hayden.
Those driving the busses say they are more dependable, too.
“Mechanical failure – we haven’t had to worry about a bus going down at 6:50 in the morning with 72 kids – so they’re very dependable. I would encourage other school districts to invest in propane busses,” said Thommy Holliday, Administrative Director of Transportation with the East Baton Rouge Parish School System.
Another form of alternative fuel that is powering fleet vehicles across the state is compressed natural gas.
“Most of the garbage and waste collection vehicles on the road in Louisiana are using compressed natural gas vehicles,” said Dr. Chuck Carr Brown, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. “As a matter of fact, anybody that puts out a bid now, it’s automatically in their bid packages that you have to have those vehicles. They’re quieter, they save a ton of CO2.”
Where propane is only responsible for about 2 percent of energy used in the United States, natural gas takes about 30 percent of the pie. Of that 30 percent, nearly half goes to electric power production. Louisiana, according to the U.S. Energy Department, is one of the top five states in both natural gas production and reserves.
“St. Landry Parish Solid Waste is home to a world recognized landfill that produces renewable natural gas from the decaying organic matter in the landfill. The methane released is captured and turned into clean burning, pipeline grade natural gas,” Vail explained. “St. Landry currently produces enough energy to offset 150 thousand gallons of diesel per year and is being upgraded to produce even more fuel for the natural gas fleets that fuel up at their station.”
All of these alternatives are really just options. At the end of the day, having those options is what’s going to not only help our environment, but our local economy, too.
“The more diversity of fuel sources we have, the better position we have as a state and a nation. Competitive market forces are bringing down the price of some of these new choices,” said Thomas Harris, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. “Before you know it, it’s going to be the obvious choice.”
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