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Kingsport environmental conference pushes green energy

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Mar 12 2013 04:32:43 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 11 2013 11:00:00 PM CDT

If it had to do with Tennessee's environment, it was at the 12th annual Tennessee Environmental Conference in Kingsport.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

Would you like to pay $1.50 to run your vehicle, have a product that you can use over and over and not throw away in the landfill? Those are all questions and concerns taken up at the 12th annual Tennessee Environmental Conference going on in Kingsport Tuesday.

If it has to do with Tennessee's environment it's well represented at the Meadowview Convention Center.

Clean air, clean water, outdoor enjoyment, recycling, and sustainability were all issues on display and in discussion at the conference. "We put a lot of effort in working with our customers to find out what it is the consumer wants and consumers are demanding more and more sustainable products. Products that are environmentally friendly, products that don't pollute," Eastman's George Decroes says.

So why are there two vehicles from the city of Kingsport parked right up front? Because they are part of a fleet of 22 vehicles that not only run on gasoline, but also propane. They came about several years back. "The Department of Energy had $300 million that they funded projects all of the United States. We did a project of 1,200 vehicles and the city of Kingsport was part of that project," says Steve Whaley with Alliance AutoGas, who outfitted the Kingsport fleet.

It was an effort at saving fuel costs for the city as well as the obvious environmental concerns. "As we've seen in the last few months the volatility of ten-cent everyday increases in gasoline at the pumps. Propane didn't actually do that. So currently we're paying $1.50 for propane and $3.01 for gasoline," city fleet manager Steve Hightower said.

The fact is that these vehicles are known as bi-fuel. You have your choice: gas or propane. "These are bi-fuel systems so nothing changes on the existing gasoline-powered system. What we do is overlay an additional fueling system, the propane system. So you can literally push a button and run on propane or push a button and run on a gasoline system," Whaley said.

So what's the bottom line savings for the city of Kingsport? "Last year was probably the least savings we had on propane but we still saving on average 72 cents a gallon and displaced 15,500 gallons of gasoline, which is a tremendous environmental benefit," Hightower said.

Just like the conference itself, looking for ways to save not only the environment but taxpayer dollars.