Propane Education & Research Council Supports Research Portfolio; Schedules January Teleconference Vote on Consumer Education Plan


[December 8, 2000]

Dallas, TX - The Propane Education & Research Council (Council) held its final meeting of the year on December 5-6 in Dallas, Texas, adding just over $1 million to its ongoing research efforts and beginning an extensive review of the proposed 2001 national consumer and trade advertising program.
The Council spent considerable time reviewing elements of the $5.65 million advertising, public relations and promotions program that has been developed with industry input under the direction and guidance of the Council's Consumer Education Advisory Committee. The public is invited to comment on the plan no later than December 29, 2000. The Council will then hold a special session on January 9, 2001 to take final action on the plan (see separate meeting notice).

'Moving forward with this nationwide consumer advertising campaign is one of the most important decisions the Council will make since this organization was created three years ago,' said Council Chairman Daryl McClendon, president, Platinum Propane, Hinsdale, Illinois. 'The Council is unanimous that we will make this decision only after we've heard from the industry, and we encourage the industry to offer its views,' added McClendon.

The consumer education plan includes the following elements-- targeted national television and print advertising, trade advertising, marketing and media outreach projects as well as an evaluation program to measure the effectiveness of the overall campaign throughout the year. Another important piece of the program is a strategy to work with propane marketers and state organizations to encourage the placement of Council-produced advertisements in their local markets.

The consumer advertising program will consist of two ads (television and print) created by the Council's communications firm, Porter Novelli. Before moving ahead at the national level the Council tested the ads in two markets from late July through mid-November. With the support of the Alabama Propane Gas Association and the Florida Propane Gas Safety Education & Research Council, the Council placed the TV and print advertisements in Dothan, Alabama and Gainesville, Florida to see how well they could raise consumers' awareness of propane's many uses in the home.

The four-month campaign was very successful according to researchers at Wirthlin Worldwide, who interviewed residents before and after the advertising program.  'Awareness of the Council's advertising improved significantly, nearly doubling, in the two test markets,' said researcher Bill Dalbec at the Dallas Council meeting.

'The results of these market tests are extremely encouraging and should give us confidence in taking the next step toward a nationwide consumer education and advertising program,' said Council President Roy Willis. 'We have laid the foundation for this campaign and, should the Council fund it in January, we will begin the promotional efforts that many in the industry had in mind when they created the propane check-off program.'

In other action, the Council approved just over $1 million in research programs, including work on fuel cells. 'The Council is moving ahead with the research portfolio that was developed under the technology roadmap,' said Willis. Also at the meeting, research firm Market Analytics presented preliminary results of the Propane Industry Statistical Survey completed this fall. Nearly 1200 propane companies participated in the survey that explored industry demographics, operations, markets, transportation and training issues. Willis said that the results must be further analyzed, but that he expects the Council will distribute a report on the survey in early 2001.

Grants and State Rebates - The Council approved numerous grants (see list below); in addition 39 state rebates requests totaling $657,000 also were approved. States are eligible to receive rebates equivalent to 20 percent of the Council's annual assessment collections. Approved grants include the following:

Research & Development:

Propane-Fueled Off-Road Engine & Tractor Development - Southwest Research Institute ($200,000) (docket #10259)

Subsonic Level Gauge Development and Demonstration - The Adept Group ($156,000) (docket #10314)

LPG Emissions Deterioration Factor Project - Northwest Propane Gas Company ($180,000) (docket #10319)

Propane Fuel Cell Development and Demonstration Program - Plug Power, Inc. ($276,523) (docket #10325)

Research & Development Advisory Committee - Propane Education & Research Council ($195,420) (docket #10389)

Worldwide Technology Initial Investigation and Report - Propane Education & Research Council ($40,000) (docket #10393)

Safety & Training:

RV LP Gas System Technical Work Book - Recreation Vehicle Industry Association ($5,000) (docket #10248)

Distribution System Operations Instructor Video - National Propane Gas Association ($337,500) (docket #10310)

Quarterly Regulatory Compliance Update - National Propane Gas Association ($60,500) (docket # 10311)

Consumer Education:

Hearth & Home Expo 2001 - National Propane Gas Association/Propane Education & Research Council ($100,000) (to be funded through previously approved docket #10232)

Fifth Annual Propane Vehicle Conference & Exposition - RP Publishing, Inc. ($15,000) (to be funded through previously approved docket #10232)

2001 Consumer Education Evaluation Program: Phase I - Propane Education & Research Council/Wirthlin Worldwide ($116,000) (docket #10391)

Today's Classic Homes National Sponsorship - Propane Education & Research Council ($155,000) (docket #10392)

Next Meeting - The Council will convene in a special teleconference meeting on January 9, 2001 to take final action on the 2001 consumer education plan.

2001 Calendar - Council Meetings
April 10-11 - Atlanta (Grants/Rebates/Strategic Planning)
July 17-18 - Chicago (Grants/Rebates/2002 Budget/Officer Elections)
September 18-19 - Washington, D.C. (Evaluation of Programs/Rebates)
December 11-12 - Houston (Grants/Rebates)

The Propane Education & Research Council was authorized by the U.S. Congress with the passage of Public Law 104-284, the Propane Education and Research Act (PERA), signed into law on October 11, 1996. The mission of the Propane Education & Research Council is to promote the safe, efficient use of odorized propane gas as a preferred energy source.