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Advocates pitch alternative fuels at Oklahoma City symposium

The Central Oklahoma Clean Cities coalition will hold a Ride & Drive event Thursday where attendees will be able to test drive alternative vehicles that run on electricity, natural gas and propane.
BY JAY F. MARKS Modified: May 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm •  Published: May 10, 2013

Surging domestic oil production hasn't resulted in appreciably lower gasoline prices, but alternatives are available, advocates said at Thursday's Clean Fleet Technologies Symposium.

The event at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City featured experts in electric vehicles and those fueled by propane or compressed natural gas.

Alternative fuel vehicles cost more than their gasoline counterparts, but fuel savings and tax credits can help offset the added expense, the experts said. Fleets that switch from gasoline or diesel reduce harmful emissions as well.

Mike Merwarth, director of autogas sales for Texas-based CleanFUEL USA, said alternative fuels also reduce U.S. oil imports, which often come from unfriendly nations.

“Let's not send any more money to the Middle East,” he said. “Let's bring it home.”

Frozen food seller Schwan's has been using propone to fuel the bulk of its trucks since the 1970s, when founder Marvin Schwan wanted a cheaper alternative as oil supplies dried up.

The company now uses about 15 million gallons of propane each year, executive John Roberts said.

“It's not much of an alternative fuel anymore,” Roberts said. “It's just how we run our business.”

Roberts is managing director of Bi-Phase Technologies Inc., a propane technology company Schwan's purchased about a decade ago. It now makes that technology available to other fleets.

He said fleet managers should consider what alternative fuel best fits their operations.

“I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all, something that works for everybody,” Roberts said.

Craiton Cooper, an instructor at Tulsa Community College, said electric vehicles are growing in popularity in major urban areas because of their lower fuel costs and lack of tailpipe emissions.

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