FTC wins fleet award for using alternative fuels

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A local company recently received a state energy conservation award for its commitment to using propane in its fleet vehicles.

In late July, the Palmetto Clean Fuels coalition, an initiative of a state regulatory energy office, presented Farmers Telephone Co-op. with its 2016 South Carolina Green Fleet Leader award, according to officials and a news release.

Landon Masters, energy specialist with the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff, said the award is given annually to fleets in the transportation sector for reducing energy use and petroleum by use of alternative fuels.

Also known as liquefied petroleum gas, or autogas, propane is the world's third most-common transportation fuel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, and it's considered an alternative fuel. The potential for improved vehicle performance and lower maintenance costs are two reasons for propane's popularity for high-mileage vehicles. Propane also reduces carbon dioxide emissions into the environment. Additionally, propane provides cost savings for fleets, in part because its price is less volatile than gasoline, according to officials.

In 2009, FTC worked with Palmetto Gas locally to install propane kits on 63 Chevrolet trucks in its fleet. According to the state clean fuels coalition, each vehicle costs about $6,300 to convert, but the installation was fully funded through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program - called the Carolina Blue Skies Green Jobs Initiative - under then-President Obama.

FTC installed refueling pumps at its offices in Sumter and Kingstree and at a convenience store in Clarendon County, thus making it convenient for drivers to fill up.

In presenting the award, the state coalition said FTC's converted fleet and refueling stations proved beneficial last year when Hurricane Matthew caused major power outages in the co-op's five-county service area, which includes Sumter, Clarendon and Lee counties.

"Because of the availability of propane, FTC drivers were not dependent on electrically powered gas pumps and were available to visit job sites and repair infrastructure," according to the coalition's news release. "In addition, these trucks could travel almost twice the distance between fill ups because of the bi-fuel (propane and gasoline) system that allowed drivers to deplete both tanks before refueling."

FTC officials expressed their appreciation for the award.

"This is just another way we work to try to be good stewards of our members' and customers' money," FTC Public Relations Director Chip Chase said. "With savings like these, the idea is to continue to reinvest in our infrastructure and our network to make the services we can provide and offer the best they can be."

According to the state clean fuels coalition, the City of Greer Commission of Public Works - a local government utility in the Upstate - won the inaugural Green Fleet Leader award for 2015.