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LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, July 30, 1998: An "early adopter" of alternative-fueled vehicles will soon depart Southern California on a round trip to Portland, Maine, driving a van powered by natural gas. Mark Looper, of Hermosa Beach, CA, will drive his 1993 Dodge passenger van on a 7500-mile, 30-state coast-to-coast roundtrip, the first such drive powered by a non-petroleum-based fuel obtained at publicly available refueling stations.
The expedition, called "Clean Across America And Back", will be at a relatively leisurely pace over three weeks, from Sunday 2 August 1998 to Sunday 23 August 1998, in order to allow for stops in as many "Clean Cities" as possible along the route. The Department of Energy (DOE) Clean Cities program has, for several years, encouraged the "grass-roots" development of alternative motor vehicle fuel markets across the country. (More information on this program is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.ccities.doe.gov/, and from contacts listed there.)
Looper is not professionally involved with alternative fuels, and in particular he is not affiliated with the DOE Clean Cities program. However, since he bought his first natural-gas-powered vehicle in 1993, he has benefited greatly from all that the Clean Cities stakeholders in Southern California have done to build the refueling infrastructure he uses, and he hopes to return the favor to the Clean Cities (and to others who have built refueling stations) by helping to publicize their work. In 1993, he had to drive over fifteen miles from his apartment to the nearest compressed-natural-gas refueling stations; since 1995 there has been one within five miles of his apartment and since 1997 there has been one within two miles of his job.
"Clean Across America And Back" was conceived independently of, but has been inspired by, "Cleanest Across America", in which Bill Fairbairn of the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition in May 1998 drove a natural-gas-powered Honda Civic GX on the first solo cross-country drive powered by a non-petroleum fuel. Both journeys are without the use of (petroleum-powered) fuel-carrying support vehicles or other means of refueling not available to the general public. The point of both of these demonstrations is to draw attention to the fact that compressed natural gas is "ready for prime time" as a practical, everyday transportation fuel in much of the country; the vehicles to use it are available today, and the stations to refuel them are numerous and becoming more so.
The 1993 Dodge B250 full-size van to be driven "Clean Across America And Back" was the first vehicle certified to meet California's strict Low-Emission Vehicle standards. In the five years since then, a few 4- and 6-cylinder gasoline engines have been developed that run cleaner than the V-8 natural-gas engine in this van. However, natural-gas engines' emissions have also continued to be reduced; for example, the Honda Civic GX is the cleanest internal-combustion-engine vehicle ever tested by the EPA, whence the name "Cleanest Across America" for the cross-country trek in this car.
In addition to the environmental benefits, replacement of gasoline and diesel fuels in the transportation market contributes to the energy security of the United States.This country is still almost 100% dependent on petroleum for transportation uses, and the fraction of that demand satisfied by imports is at or near its all-time high. Most alternatives to gasoline or diesel fuel (including natural gas) are domestically produced, and thus can reduce our dependence on energy imported from unstable parts of the world.
"Cleanest Across America" was chronicled on the World Wide Web in near real time at http://www.ccities.doe.gov/chronicles/cleanest.shtml; inspired by this, and by Kris Trexler's "Charge Across America" (a three-week journey from Los Angeles to Troy, Michigan in a GM EV1 electric car at about the same time as "Cleanest Across America"--this seems to be the year for this sort of thing!), which was logged at http://www.ev1.pair.com/charge_across_america/home.html, "Clean Across America And Back" will also have an online journal at http://home.earthlink.net/~mrgasser, to which daily progress reports and photos will be posted.
For more information, check the website listed above, or contact Mark Looper by voicemail at (310)798-0640 or by e-mail at mrgasser(at)earthlink.net.
new 30 July 1998