On Thursday, October 18, 2012, National Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Day Odyssey marked its 10-year anniversary and was celebrated across the U.S. at over 150 sites including Baton Rouge. Coordinated by the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC), the biennial event is dedicated to promoting the use of AFVs and advanced technology vehicles.
The Greater Baton Rouge Clean Cities Coalition and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, along with sponsors Apache Corporation and Royal Nissan, hosted lawmakers, government officials, and clean fuel stakeholders from across the state for a one-day Symposium and Expo at the Capital Park Welcome Center.
(Thomas Marino, GBRCCC Vice President; Melvin L. “Kip” Holden, EBR Mayor-President; Lauren L. Stuart, GBRCCC Executive Director)
East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Melvin L. “ Kip” Holden kicked off the event with welcoming remarks. As someone who has worked on securing alternative fuels policy, Holden is well aware of the barriers to achieving energy independence in Louisiana, but believes that’s why such efforts must continue: “Even though there are still obstacles out there, you are on the right track. You must keep pushing and opening those doors.”
Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Commissioner Dr. Mike Strain
Keynote speaker Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, articulated why the department is so heavily invested in alternative fuels. From field to table, our food is transported an average of 15 times. As the state’s largest industry, agriculture and forestry require a ton of energy. In addition to expanding alternative fuel use to lower costs, reduce dependence on imported petroleum, and decrease greenhouse gases, Dr. Strain sees alternative fuels as an untapped global market for the state. “Louisiana is perfectly suited for biofuel production [because of] location, vegetation diversity, climate, agricultural infrastructure, [and our] forests yield the highest amounts of biomass.” LA also has some of the largest natural gas finds in the world. Working to ensure that these industries are better developed and that the revenues stay here in the state is paramount.
GBRCCC executive director Lauren Lee Stuart demonstrated the impact Clean Cities has had on the nation’s economic stability, energy security, and environmental quality – saving more than 3 billion gallons of petroleum since the program’s start in 1994. As 27% of greenhouse gases come from the transportation sector, we need to ensure that AFVs and infrastructure are prioritized and made more accessible.
(Lauren L. Stuart, GBRCCC; Louisiana State Representatives Robert Billiot, Rep. James Fannin; Rep. Henry Burns)
Randy Hayden, director of Louisiana Propane Association, moderated a political panel with Representatives Franklin Foil and Dalton Honore. The panel discussed the legislative obstacles standing between us and the future of alternative fuel production, accessibility, and AFVs. Representative Honore, a former Exxon dealer, explained that rising fuel costs are driving industry away from LA and that we have to develop alternative fuels to survive in the new marketplace. “If you can supply industry with resources out of LA, that will make us much more competitive.”
(Randy Hayden, Louisiana Propane Association; Representative Dalton Honore’; Representative Franklin Foil)
Before being appointed to the Natural Resources Committee, Representative Foil had never heard about compressed natural gas (CNG). “[It was] eye-opening to learn about what we could do with that technology.” Foil pointed out that we need to look very closely at the state’s existing AFV tax credits and make the case that those credits will stimulate economic activity. Moreover, we need to modify LA road use fees for AFVs because currently drivers pay the same tax on alternative fuels as gasoline and diesel. As of now, electric vehicles don’t have a road use tax because they don’t operate on a per gallon unit. Moving forward, LA should provide greater tax incentives to build alternative fuel stations.
Bio-CNG Work Truck on display thanks to the St. Landry Parish Solid Waste Disposal District
St. Landry Parish Solid Waste Disposal District Operations Technician Faltery “FJ” Jolivette gave an inspiring presentation on the success of pioneering the first biogas fleet in the state and one of only a few in the country. The District extracts methane from decomposing trash and transfers it to a natural gas fueling station nearby. Today, BioCNG fuels 10 St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office vehicles and five pickup trucks that work on the landfill.
The newly converted CNG Ford F-150, the first of four planned compressed natural gas vehicles for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry
Gifford Briggs, Vice President of Louisiana Oil & Gas Association, moderated a panel on another alternative fuel success story, featuring Mike Hollier, Tony Tramel, Rob Guidry, and Mark Bruchman. Panelists shared key insights detailing Lafayette’s process of converting its entire fleet of buses and many of its city vehicles to CNG. Briggs noted, “We act like CNG is new in LA, [but] it’s not new; it’s just new here. SoCal has been doing this for 30 years.” CNG is not as dependent on the price of a gallon at the pump like gasoline, and therefore is not nearly as volatile. Mike Hollier, from Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG), said the city sent a team to learn from Fortworth, TX who had been running their public transit on CNG for the last 30 years. After two years of research, the consensus was CNG. Hollier put it simply: “Not using CNG in Lafayette is like living in the forest without using the wood.” Hollier assured that in both the short-term and the long-term, CNG infrastructure is a sound investment.
(Gifford Briggs, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association; Rob Guidry, Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce; Mark Bruchman, Apache; Mike Hollier, Lafayette Consolidated Government and the Lafayette Metropolitan Planning Organization; and Tony Trammel, Lafayette Traffic and Transportation Department)
So how can other cities get started? LCG created a public information video available for those interested in transitioning. The city found that installing three 24-hour CNG fueling stations before they began converting fleets was key to its program’s success. They also recommend replacing city buses at a rate of two/year. The project was funded in part by a grant from the Department of Natural Resources Empower Louisiana Transportation Efficiency and Alternative Fuels Program.
Tony Tramel, also from LCG, explains that one of the main barriers to achieving alternative fuel economies of scale is drivers’ fears that they’ll run out of fuel and be left without access to a fueling station. “If we increase the number of stations, we’ll deal with that fear. Vehicles [also] have to be bi-fuel to address that concern.” Rob Guidry , President and CEO of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, emphasized the importance of private and public partnerships in the alternative fuels industry: “We’ve partnered with everyone on this panel and want to be relevant to all sectors.” Industry is prepared to be a part of clean energy solutions as soon as products are available. Operations General Manager – Natural Gas Development Group of Apache Corporation Mark Bruchman said the best marketing tool is the price tag: “People flood the CNG station after seeing the $1.79/gallon billboard, but then realize it doesn’t work for their [gasoline powered] car.” Apache has been a leader in investing in CNG infrastructure and even donated equipment to Lafayette. In order to be an economically viable market, Briggs reiterates that the state needs to see consumer support for alternative fuels like CNG as well as AFV tax incentives.
AFV Odyssey Expo attendees look under the hood of a propane truck on display thanks to Ferrell Gas
Following the AFV Symposium, the Odyssey event continued with a 2nd line parade to the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Expo by jazz musician John Gray. The afternoon’s line-up included BioCNG Chevy Pick Up, Plug-in Hybrid Electric Chevy Volt, Honda CNG Civic Gx, Nissan Leaf, Solar EV Charging Station, Propane Truck, Bi-fuel CNG Chevy Tahoe and 2012 Ford F-150 CNG. NAPA Auto & Truck Parts distributed generous gift baskets, and Boudreaux Jr.’s Fiddle Duo provided attendees with music under the oak trees.
Thanks again to all the sponsors, panelists, and exhibitors who contributed to the event’s success!
CNG Tahoe and Civic Gx on display thanks to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources
Plug-in Hybrid Electric Volt on display thanks to Gerry Lane Chevrolet