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    New Online Tool Helps Growers Compare Energy Costs


    WASHINGTON, DC (Sept. 21, 2005) - With energy costs rising over the past several months, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has joined with leading agriculture news website agweb.com to launch a new web page featuring PERC’s Agriculture Cost Estimator to help growers estimate and compare the cost of using propane with other energy sources in their operations. The Agriculture Cost Estimator is available at www.agweb.com/propane.

    “The purpose of the Agriculture Cost Estimator is to allow growers the opportunity to see the estimated difference in the cost of using propane compared to other energy sources,” said PERC Director of Agriculture Programs Mark Leitman. “Specifically, the cost estimator shows the differences in two common applications for propane: irrigation and grain drying.”

    The online Agriculture Cost Estimator is simple to use. Growers making irrigation comparisons plug in the pumping rate and total dynamic head figures for their irrigation systems, enter the amount they currently spend on diesel or gasoline, enter the current rate for propane in their area, then click “Calculate.” Instantly, growers can see the pumping cost per hour for powering their irrigation systems on these fuels. 

    Growers comparing costs for grain drying can enter the percentage of moisture they need to remove and the number of bushels that they will be drying, as well as the current rate they are paying for electricity and propane in their area. According to a national study conducted in 2004 by PERC, more than three out of four growers already use propane to dry grain. Propane still provides a highly efficient heat source that removes excess moisture for the necessary storage and marketing of high quality grain. 

    Since diesel is a common energy source used to power irrigation equipment, PERC and Illinois PERC co-funded a study to compare the performance of diesel and propane engines, operating an identical load.  Researchers from Southern Illinois University found that overall 1.59 gallons of propane equals the same energy output as 1 gallon of diesel fuel in the test engines. The researchers collected this data by conducting tests comparing the performance of a propane engine to a diesel engine. Both engines were similar in size and tested at a variety of loads and RPMs.

    “It’s important for growers to realize that while diesel costs often increase in the summer – the peak time for irrigation – historically, the cost of propane decreases,” Leitman said. “This is another reason why propane becomes a more economical option for irrigation.” 

    Leitman emphasized that propane also gives growers greater flexibility and reliability than other energy sources, like electricity. “During peak hours, electricity rates can dramatically increase, or the power could suddenly shut off completely, causing a blackout. Farmers do not have these concerns with dedicated propane equipment. They own the fuel and can rely on it to perform when needed.”  Since some electricity is often necessary for many on-farm propane applications, Leitman urges farmers to consider propane-fueled back-up generators to keep equipment operating even in the event of a blackout. 

    AgWeb.com, the Web site hosting the online ag cost estimator, is a popular Web site in the agricultural industry attracting over 250,000 visitors per month. Growers who do not have access to the Internet can order the ag cost estimator in a printed format through the Propane Industry Resource Catalog at (866) 840-1075 by requesting item PRC001020. 

    PERC’s vision in agriculture is that by 2010, the agricultural industry will recognize propane as a preferred energy source offering exceptional value. This value is achieved through a unique combination of product benefits, including cost-effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, reliability, portability, and environmental friendliness.

    For more information on PERC and its programs to promote the safe and efficient use of propane in agriculture, call (202) 452-8975 or visit www.usepropane.com and click on the “Trades” link.