Agriculture Secretary Vilsack showcases propane autogas vehicle conversion program as part of Obama administration’s ‘recovery summer’

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack attended a media event and facility tour of Baker Equipment in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, July 15 to celebrate the first vehicle converted under the Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program, a large-scale project that will convert vehicles from conventional gasoline to propane Autogas as part of an $8.6 million Recovery Act grant. An estimated 21 green jobs will be created for every $1 million expended in the project, and 47 administrative, manufacturing, distribution and technician jobs have been directly created to-date.

Administered by Virginia Clean Cities at James Madison University, the project will put more alternative fueled vehicles on the road than any other Department of Energy Clean Cities Recovery Act program. Nearly 1,200 vehicles will be converted to run on propane Autogas and 25 propane Autogas refueling stations will be built along major routes in nine southeast states. The Recovery Act funds are creating jobs across the nation to build a stronger future economy.

“The work happening here at Baker Equipment is a great example of the impact the Recovery Act dollars are having in cities and towns across the country, putting people to work and helping make rapid advances in emerging industries like clean energy,” says Secretary Vilsack.

Alliance AutoGas and Red Top Cab propane Autogas vehicles

Alliance AutoGas and Red Top Cab propane Autogas vehicles on exhibit at the event

The vehicles converted under the grant, which was awarded to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, will displace an estimated 15.7 million gallons of gasoline and eliminate more than 16,000 tons of airborne pollutants over the four-year funding period of the project.

“We are honored to have Secretary Vilsack’s participation at this event and his support of the program,” says Chelsea Jenkins, executive director of Virginia Clean Cities and recipient of the 2009 Clean Cities Coordinator of the Year award. “As the Secretary said, the Recovery Act funds are challenging us all to create new opportunities and reinvent the way we think about energy. We are enthusiastic to track our progress and illustrate the tremendous potential of advanced propane Autogas technology which can reduce our dependence on imported oil and create hundreds of green jobs.”

Skip Baker, president of Baker Equipment, a program partner and host of the event says, “Baker Equipment has a long-standing history as a leader in the integration of alternative fuel vehicle technology. Each car converted under this program represents job creation and a step toward energy independence, and we are pleased to participate in this project.”

Alliance AutoGas, a national clean fuel coalition founded by Blossman Gas and American Alternative Fuel, will coordinate the vehicle conversions and fueling. Alliance AutoGas President Stuart Weidie says, “It is exciting to be a part of such a significant project that will begin to redefine fueling in the Southeast. Propane Autogas is a clean alternative fuel with a strong network of fueling stations in the U.S., and it is available right now to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Red Top Cab fueling demonstration

A Red Top Cab propane Autogas vehicle was used for a fueling demonstration

Red Top Cab, a program partner, supplied the first vehicle to be converted for the Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program and showcased the vehicle at the event. Secretary Vilsack also learned about the vehicle conversion process in a demonstration performed on one of the Ford Crown Victorias that Red Top Cab provided. View more photos from the event here.

“We are looking to forward to completing all the vehicle conversions in the next six months,” says Matt Sgambeterra, president of American Alternative Fuel. “Although this is an ambitious timeframe, we’re eager to get these propane Autogas vehicles on the road and start tracking the success of the project.”