Proctor Gas eyes a cleaner future via renewable propane

Judy Taranovich and Proctor Gas celebrate the arrival of the first-ever truckload of renewable propane in Vermont’s history. Photos by Mat Clouser


PROCTOR — It’s tough to go anywhere in Vermont these days without hearing about the benefits of electrical power. And for good reason. Vermont has the cleanest electrical grid in the state—boasting a total carbon footprint almost 48 times cleaner than the national average and more than 14 times cleaner than anywhere else in New England (via PERC). And yet, for many, the current costs of switching to electricity are prohibitively high. 

The upfront costs are massive, and many of our towns and residences are not currently equipped to handle all the extra juice needed to convert. Additionally, more than 80% of Vermonters live in rural locations where power outages are far from rare. In some cases, a lack of access to power can become a life or death issue. To that end, Vermont has an equity issue when it comes to power.

Hoping to address both issues at once is Judy Taranovich, owner of Proctor Gas, who just brought the first-ever load of renewable propane into the state of Vermont. Along with the Propane Gas Association of New England (PGANE) and the Propane Education and Research Council (PERC), Proctor Gas held an open house on June 29 to inform the public about the benefits of their new product. 

“We hope that you’ll think of it [propane] differently after you leave today,” said Taranovich addressing the crowd of roughly 60 attendees. 

The crowd, comprised of propane executives, politicians, and curious citizens, was treated to a cookout (grilled on propane, of course), refreshments, speeches from various politicians and high-level propane players, and a demonstration of vehicles that had been converted to propane.

One of the vehicles, owned by PGANE board chair Jim Blake, was a converted 1932 Ford Roadster (running a 1949 Flathead V8) touted as the first-ever Roadster to run on renewable propane. “It actually runs smoother than [traditional] gas,” said Blake, who’s been running race cars since the 1990s.

Propane has long been much cleaner and less expensive compared to other fossil and solid fuel. It offers the lowest total cost-of-operation of any energy source, including electricity, and its portability and reliability make it a significant player in helping offset some greenhouse emissions. 

According to PERC, approximately one acre of forestland is saved for every 50 families that convert to propane from solid fuels like wood or coal. And yet, traditional propane is still a by-product of natural gas, which—while twice as clean as coal—is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, according to numerous climate scientists.

Renewable propane is made predominantly as a by-product of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuels made from plant and vegetable oils, animal fats, used cooking oil, and other renewable feedstocks. And it could be up to four times cleaner than traditional propane, according to PERC. 

PERC’s President and CEO Tucker Perkins, acknowledged that renewable propane isn’t the only path to attaining global net-zero emissions. Still, he made a point to put renewable propane in the mix as part of a potential solution. “The best path to a cleaner planet is the widest path,” he said.

Beyond burning cleaner fuel to heat our homes and kitchens, Perkins cited the cost benefits of propane fleets, particularly school buses, among the areas where propane could potentially surpass electric vehicles. “Of course, it [energy] has to be good for the earth and health,” he continued, “but if you can’t afford it, why are we even talking about it?”

As for the commercial costs and availability of the fuels, Taranovich said the first 9,000-gallon load she brought in was earmarked for Proctor Gas’s fleet of delivery vehicles and that she was uncertain when she’d be able to offer renewable propane to her customers. 

A minimum of 100 customers are needed before it becomes viable for Proctor Gas to get the fuel delivered consistently. Still, Taranovich anticipated being able to offer renewable propane at about one dollar more per gallon than standard propane by the beginning of 2023’s heating season.

“We’re just starting the conversation and education now, but if I can do it sooner, I will,” she said. “I’m trying to be proactive, knowing that Vermont wants cleaner fuels throughout the state.”

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