Poor Man's Pickens

Officially they’re Autogas for America. Unofficially, this new alliance jokingly bills itself as "the poor man's T. Boone Pickens plan." Autogas’ goal is to give a unified voice to the fragmented propane industry and make the fuel a viable alternative for vehicles.

Autogas for America Chairman Stuart Weidie said the group's initial goal is to build a network with a "common voice, common data and a common language."

While there are 14 million autogas vehicles around the world, there are fewer than 200,000 in the United States. You’ve probably heard of the fuel referred to as liquid petroleum gas here in the states.

The group and a U.S. EPA study both say autogas could have "potentially lower" carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions than traditional fuels. According to data from the Department of Energy, replacing 500,000 conventional vehicles with autogas ones would eliminate more than 2.64 million tons of greenhouse gases and CO2 equivalent. About 90 percent of the world's supply is produced domestically. But, there is even less infrastructure available around the country than there is for CNG.

Autogas for America wants to see 500,000 autogas vehicles in the United States by 2013, starting with fleet vehicles. The group is pushing for a renewal of the 50-cent-per-gallon tax credit for alternative fuels in a bill that passed the House and went before the Senate last week.

Weidie said he recognized that propane would likely not be the ultimate end in vehicle technology. But he said it was more effective than electric and more proven than hydrogen.

"At a minimum, we're a great transition fuel to 20 years from today. ... We need to have some transition fuels before we find that magic bullet," Weidie said. "We're right here; we're right now."