Filling Up
Shale’s Greener America, Truck Fleet Edition

Companies across the U.S. are working to convert truck fleets from running on gasoline to using propane as a fuel source. The shale boom has led to a flood of propane production, creating both economic and environmental incentives for firms to make the switch, as Bloomberg reports:

“There’s a dramatic increase in the rate of adoption in fleets,” said Jeff Stewart, the president of Santa Rosa, California-based Blue Star, in a telephone interview. “It’s really the economic savings that people can achieve even compared to the lower gasoline prices.” […]

The change is propelled by a glut of propane from shale wells. It comes as prices for the fuel trade close to a 13-year low and are 75 percent cheaper than diesel. At the same time, propane offers an environmental gain, emitting 12 percent less carbon dioxide than gasoline at a time of growing global warming concerns.

A lack of widespread fueling stations is preventing propane-fueled vehicles from making inroads in the consumer market, but for companies that refuel in centralized locations, the infrastructure is a lower hurdle to clear, making propane a smart choice for companies operating truck fleets.

But propane isn’t the only way shale is affecting American transportation. Natural gas itself can also be used to power vehicles (you may have seen buses running on the fuel source in cities around the country), and, thanks to fracking, the U.S. has an overabundant and therefore relatively cheap supply of the energy source. The number of trucks running on compressed natural gas (CNG) has increased in recent years, and that market stands to grow in the future. Though much focus has been placed on liquifying our shale gas and shipping it off to customers abroad, cheap oil has crippled that market for American producers. As Gal Luft explains, that gas may find a better home here in the U.S., in part fueling truck fleets.

Both propane and CNG entail fewer tailpipe emissions than gasoline, making them a green fuel choice as well as an economic one. At this point, it’s becoming hard to find an American industry that isn’t being affected by the shale boom.

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