Representatives detail plans for a comprehensive industry communication strategy at recent meeting

Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) Councilors gathered for another virtual meeting on Feb. 10. As discussed when PERC met in November, a couple of months would be devoted to the development of the most effective environmental messaging campaign possible.

The group — comprised of two representatives from PERC and two from the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), led by Stuart Weidie, chief executive officer and president of Blossman Gas — laid out their plan. Weidie reminded councilors of a few assumptions:

  • The case has been made that increases in global greenhouse gas emission in recent decades are real.
  • The narrative that fossil fuel combustion is the main cause of climate change is firmly fixed as a moral certitude.
  • Propane is assumed to be a dirty fossil fuel, despite its favorable environmental attributes. Conversely, electricity is seen as clean. The grid’s inefficiency and dependence on coal and natural gas are ignored.
  • The “Electrification of Everything” movement is rapidly gaining momentum and threatens the future of the propane industry.

Weidie outlined a strategy of the propane industry being the disruptor versus disrupted. “We’ll show propane is carbon-clean relative to fossil fuel counterparts,” he said. “Propane can accelerate decarbonization.”


The strategy also included sharing aspirations and speaking “climate” fluently. “Banning gas shouldn’t be the goal. Decarbonization is a goal we can all share,” Weidie said. “Expanding influence and building long bridges is another key strategy; we’ll show CO2 isn’t the whole problem. We will address greenhouse gas emissions, including fugitive methane.”

Weidie also emphasized that part of the strategy will entail conveying the message to the public that propane is in abundant supply, has readily available technology to facilitate its production and distribution and is affordable for everyone. Two key messages of the campaign are:

  • “Cleaner and renewable energy like propane accelerates decarbonization.”
  • “Access to cleaner, affordable and renewable energy like propane ensures equity on the path to zero.”

According to Weidie, opportunities to achieve decarbonization include replacing coal in all United States electrical power plants; replacing diesel in all heavy transportation applications: ships, mid-duty and heavy-duty trucks and agricultural tractors; replacing electric water heaters with tankless heaters; and replacing all fluorinated gases in refrigeration with R290. It was noted that more than 60% of energy in electricity generation is lost, and that in 2019, 83% of the grid was still energized by non-renewables.

Major concerns regarding access to clean, renewable energy Weidie outlined include data showing the number of employed people living paycheck to paycheck pre-COVID-19 at 74% with almost three in 10 adults having no emergency savings; the share of income low-income households spend on electricity rose by a third in the last decade; and utility programs that promote rooftop solar power, electric vehicles and home energy storage are largely inaccessible to many low-income households.

The meeting also included a presentation by Erin Hatcher, vice president of communications at PERC, who introduced a full-year, integrated marketing plan. The 2021 plan will be a continuation of the “Propane Can Do That” campaign.

Hatcher said, “Individual market strategies are focused on the target audience. Tactics will support up to three key objectives per market.”

She asked for and received council approval for the $9.86 million integrated marketing communications docket, which encompasses the totality of 2021 programming for all markets, environmental thought leadership, corporate communications/cross-market and digital development. Projects that have been approved for the meeting include the following items:

  • Docket 22786 — 2021 Integrated Marketing CommunicationsEVENT COVERAGE 27April 2021
  • Docket 22860 — 2021 Partnership with NPGA and GPA Midstream, $1.495 million
  • Docket 22804 — Business Development Engagement and Professional Services, $675,000
  • Docket 22789 — Residential Market Business Development, $657,500
  • Docket 22796 — Autogas Market Business Development, $620,000
  • Docket 22792 — Commercial Market Business Development, $472,500
  • Docket 22801 — Material Handling Market Business Development,$365,000
  • Docket 22791 — Agriculture Market Business Development, $285,000
  • Docket 22802 — Off-Road Market Business Development, $255,000
  • Docket 22788 — Stirling Battery Ecosystem (SBE9000) Using Propane, $450,000
  • Docket 22640 — Development and UL Certification of a Propane-Fired Burner for a 4 kWe Stirling Generator, $260,000
  • Docket 22803 — Techno-Economic, Feasibility and Life-Cycle Analysis of Renewable Propane, $152,414
  • Docket 22819 — 2021 Learning Center Support, $250,000
  • Docket 22784 — 2021 Market Research and Data Operation, $574,000

Pat Thornton is a 25-year veteran of the propane industry, with 20 years at Propane Resources and 5 years at Butane-Propane News. He has served on the PERC Safety & Training Advisory Committee and the Missouri PERC Board of Directors.

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