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New Gas Station Dubbed the 'Apple Store of the Alternative Energy Market'

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Drivers in California can’t use “a lack of filling stations” as an excuse for failing to own an alternative energy vehicle -- now that the gas station of the future opened last month near Anaheim.

Charged by its vision of “Clean Mobility,” startup Propel Energy cut the ribbon on its maiden renewable fueling station that offers ethanol and biodiesel pumps, bicycle tune-ups, public transportation schedules, and even high-performance, premium-quality gasoline for non-adopter motorists. Thanks to $19 million in venture capital and over $20 million in grants from the US Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission, this is the first in a four-year-long rollout of 100 such stations around the state.

Depending on how well the market responds and grows, Propel Energy plans to add natural gas pumps and battery recharging for electric cars to the list of fuel options available at stations.

Propel is “a remarkable company, like the Apple Store of the alternative energy market,” Jim Lane, editor and publisher of BiofuelsDigest, told Bloomberg. “We have these transformative fuel products that are being sold as commodities, like computers used to be sold. But Apple (AAPL) really showed that if you start thinking about customer experience you can change people’s minds and get them thinking about something in a whole new way.”

The risks associated with being an industry pioneer can also pay off in spades. “There are not a lot of companies that are trying this. But 10 years ago, they called them crazy in Cupertino, too,” said Lane.

While California may have helped to de-incentivized the green motor movement when the state pulled the plug on its $5,000 hybrid and electric car rebate, drivers can still take advantage of the $7,500 tax credit offered by the federal government for the Chevy (GM) Volt, Ford (F) Transit Connect, and Nissan Leaf, among others. The Toyota (TM) Prius Plug-in Hybrid can also earn a kickback of $2,500.  

Besides, unless you’re a stockholder or company employee, it’s getting harder and harder to be a fan of Big Oil. While Americans are being forced to slash their budgets just to be able to afford to drive to work -- with the exorbitant $3.54 per gallon national average a sad relief from last year’s $3.71 price at this time -- ExxonMobil (XOM) saw profits of $21.3 billion in the first half of last year alone.

In fact, the petroleum giant just got taken to task in a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and writer Steve Coll. Counting corporate revenue as gross domestic product, Private Empire ranks Exxon among the top 30 countries in the world.  
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.