Clean energy, like most things, is not a black and white issue. Renewable energy is growing quickly in Canada, but a lot of hurdles still remain, and it may not ever be possible to truly go 100% renewable. But that doesn't mean the only alternative in the meantime is dirty coal. We have a wealth of cleaner options available to us, foremost among them propane.

Propane is a hydrocarbon, but unlike coal, oil, and natural gas, it produces no methane and practically no sulphur. It has a greenhouse gas footprint 26 percent lower than gasoline. And in the event of a leak, it doesn't contaminate soil, air, or water.

For more than just barbecues

You may know propane best as the fuel that grills your burgers in the summer, but its applications go far beyond that to heating, electricity, manufacturing, and transportation. “Propane is a game-changer for Canada,” says Nathalie St-Pierre, President and CEO of the Canadian Propane Association. “It has a significant role to play in our country’s clean energy mix because it is an affordable, low-emission, non-toxic energy source that provides environmental benefits for numerous sectors, including residential, commercial, agriculture, mining, petrochemical and transportation.”

Propane-powered vehicles have been around for a long time, but they are receiving new attention by consumers and business owners as the push to green our roads grows. Electric vehicles will undoubtedly play a large role in this initiative, but they remain expensive even with subsidies, and when the electricity that powers them comes from fossil fuel power plants, their green impact is diminished. Propane-powered vehicles are affordable, ready to go today, and have proven environmental advantages over gasoline and diesel. “There is no silver bullet to reducing emissions in the transportation sector,” says St-Pierre. “There is space for auto propane to grow alongside the electric car, for different uses, different consumers, different businesses.“

As a source of heat, light, and electricity, propane's portability and ability to function without the exponential infrastructure costs of other alternative fuels makes it a natural fit for Canada's remote and indigenous communities, many of which primarily operate on diesel today. “These communities experience local air and noise pollution, blackouts, supply issues, and fuel spills,” says St-Pierre. “Propane can support this necessary change on a large scale in a practical and affordable manner and to a degree that will allow these communities to grow and foster economic development.”

An economic powerhouse

Economically, propane is a win for Canada both at home and abroad. Domestically, the propane industry employs roughly 23,000 people and generates over $16 billion annually for the Canadian economy, and there is substantial export opportunity as well. “Canada has significant amounts of propane – a natural raw material with many useful applications, including manufacturing,” says St-Pierre. “Canada’s abundant propane supply also provides untapped export potential to reduce global emissions in high carbon-emitting nations, such as China.”

In all, propane is perfectly positioned as a cleaner energy source that is mature, ready-to-go, and abundant. Any realistic path towards a green and renewable Canada must focus on the steps we can take today as much as on the destination we hope to reach. Propane can be the bridge to a green Canadian future.