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Alternative Fuels Shine in U.S. Study : Energy: Testing shows they burn cleaner than reformulated gasoline touted by the oil industry.

October 20, 1994|MICHAEL PARRISH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the most extensive comparison yet, natural gas, methanol, propane and electricity are indeed cleaner-burning vehicle fuels than even improved forms of gasoline, according to preliminary results of a federal study to be released today.

Many in the oil industry have maintained that gasoline reformulated to be cleaner-burning--which will be required in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities beginning in January--can provide much the same emissions reductions as most alternative fuels.

"Sometimes when you talk to the oil companies, they say that reformulated gasoline is as good as the alternatives," said Cindy Sullivan, technology advancement program supervisor for the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The study "confirms that alternative fuels do have emissions benefits over gasoline, even reformulated gasoline."

The other key early finding: All the alternatives provided performance that allows specific uses in everyday fleet work.

The two-year, $10-million study--called "CleanFleet"--involved 111 Federal Express delivery vans in Southern California.

Final data, including cost-benefit comparisons, will become available in a series of reports beginning in November, as the vehicle motors are dismantled and tested. The reports--available through the AQMD or Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio, which conducted the study--will allow fleet managers to consider which specific fuel would be most practical for meeting their regional air pollution rules.

"This also lays the groundwork for other projects in the advanced transportation arena," said Doug Campbell, an assistant to Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City), who solicited funding for the study from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy.

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