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Leaked recordings reveal how propane industry is attempting to deceive the public: 'Their latest greenwashing scheme'

The propane industry is trying to win over younger generations with deceptive marketing tactics.

The propane industry is trying to win over younger generations with deceptive marketing tactics.

Photo Credit: iStock

Leaked recordings from a propane industry lobbying group's meeting revealed that the industry is cooking up an elaborate scheme to deceive the public by advertising propane as "clean energy," as the Guardian reported.

What's happening? 

Per the Guardian, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) has poured nearly $30 million since 2022 into advertisements claiming that propane is a renewable form of energy, according to a report by multimedia climate reporting project Drilled

However, the Department of Energy states that most propane is derived from natural gas processing and crude oil refining.

In a public company meeting in 2022 recorded by the Energy and Policy Institute, PERC board members discussed rebranding strategies to get younger generations on board with propane, knowing the industry is in hot water without their support, as the Guardian reported

"We don't want to be in that coal bucket," Erin Hatcher, PERC's senior vice president of communications and marketing, said in the recording, per the outlet. "We want to be in that clean energy bucket."

Drilled's report found that PERC's yearly ad spending surged from $1.7 million in 2021 to nearly $30 million in 2022-23, more than a 17-fold increase. The lobbying group presented propane as a solution to the warming climate, advertising across 450 media outlets, including YouTube Kids.

According to the Guardian, PERC plans to raise its advertising budget to $12.8 million in 2025 to expand its audience base, citing "eco-inclined" homeowners as its next target. The outlet said PERC is also working on an advertising pitch to deliver to lawmakers who ultimately have the final say in setting climate regulations. 

​"The fossil fuel industry has been a true trailblazer on one thing over the last few decades — how to greenwash," Wren Montgomery, an associate professor of sustainability at Western University, told the Guardian. "Pitching propane as 'clean energy' seems to be just their latest greenwashing scheme."

Why is greenwashing by the propane industry concerning?

Since propane is a byproduct of dirty energy sources like gas and oil, it releases heat-trapping gases into the air that are directly responsible for our overheating planet. 

While the Energy Information Administration states that propane is less polluting than coal or diesel, it still produces more carbon than natural gas when burned as fuel. 

Even "renewable propane" made from cooking oil or plants releases planet-warming gases like carbon dioxide. It's also not a viable replacement for fossil fuel–derived propane since only 0.04% comes from renewable sources, per the EIA. 

Despite the small supply of renewable propane, PERC often presents alternative fuel as a low-carbon solution that's "widely accessible" in its advertisements, according to the Guardian.

Making misleading claims about propane also harms the public and could thwart efforts to reduce the pollution driving rising temperatures. 

The oil and gas industries have long been involved in greenwashing to downplay their role in the climate crisis. The propane industry is taking a page from that playbook and trying to win over younger generations with deceptive marketing tactics. 

What's being done about it?

Luckily, propane accounts for only a small portion of carbon pollution compared to other fuel sources, per the EIA

With more people adopting energy-efficient, eco-friendly appliances like heat pumps, solar panels, induction stoves, and electric water heaters, propane may slowly be phased out. 

Educating yourself about greenwashing and calling out deceptive companies can help put the brakes on environmentally destructive business practices.

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