Propane: More Than Words
You know that consumers around the country use propane for heating and cooling homes, hot water, cooking, refrigeration, drying clothes, pool heaters, fueling the fireplace, and much more. Propane is one of the nation’s most versatile sources of energy, and more than 8 million American households use it today. It’s a clean-burning natural resource used by millions of people on a daily basis. We frequently hear scientific terms used to describe how clean or environmentally friendly a certain fuel is. But what does it mean? To help you better understand, here’s a quick primer:
What are “Clean Fuels”?
“Clean fuels” are fuels that have a lower carbon intensity than the fuels they replace. Propane is a U.S.-approved clean fuel listed in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendment. Substituting propane for other more carbon-intense fuels is an economical and viable step toward cleaner air, and reduces the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).
What is “Carbon Intensity”?
Carbon intensity is the measure of CO2 produced per dollar of gross domestic product (GDP). A decreasing carbon intensity number is good for both our environment and our economy because it means that energy consumption is growing more efficient and that more work is being done that doesn’t require the burning of fossil fuels. Compared to most hydrocarbons, propane has a low carbon to hydrogen ratio, which means that it generates lower amounts of carbon dioxide per amount of heat it produces.
What is meant by “Carbon Footprint”?
Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels and also as a result of certain chemical reactions. A carbon footprint is the sum of greenhouse gas (or GHG) emissions of a product or service. Because carbon dioxide is the most significant GHG, “carbon footprint” is often used as an all-encompassing term when referring to GHGs. However, the carbon footprint takes into account other greenhouse gases besides CO2. Propane is beneficial because it has a lower carbon content than other fuels. Tests conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that propane-fueled vehicles produce 30 to 90 percent less carbon monoxide and about 50 percent fewer toxins and other smog-producing emissions than gasoline engines.
What is “Greenhouse Gas”?
Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases. A greenhouse gas absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range (infrared thermal radiation is what warms the atmosphere). This is the primary cause of the greenhouse effect, which is the process by which radiation from the atmosphere warms the Earth’s surface to a temperature above what it would be without its atmosphere.
We’ve said it before … clean-burning and versatile for your whole-home energy use, propane is tough to beat. We hope this short explanation of terms offers some scientific insight on why propane is the choice for so many Americans.