WASHINGTON, June 1, 2016 - A California company is working to put a dent in the cellulosic biofuel portion of the Renewable Fuel Standard - one garbage truck at a time.

Clean Energy Renewable Fuels – a subsidiary of Clean Energy Fuels – uses liquefied renewable natural gas (RNG) to power vehicles equipped to handle the fuel. Right now, fleet vehicles represent a large amount of the company’s sales, but the company also has over 500 fueling stations in the continental U.S.

Harrison Clay, the president of the company, was in Washington last week looking to drum up support and raise awareness of the fuel. From his perspective, it should be a pretty easy sell.

“Who wouldn’t love the idea of cutting tailpipe emissions from a heavy duty truck or a school bus by 90 percent compared to the cleanest engine on the road today and combining that with a domestic, renewable, low-carbon fuel that’s available to us forever?” Clay said in an interview with Agri-Pulse.

The renewable gas Clay’s talking about is made from methane sourced from places like landfills or agricultural lagoons and is produced by the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste. Production of the fuel also generates RFS Renewable Identification Numbers that fall under the cellulosic biofuel category, which has lagged behind congressional expectations and is set at just 5.6 percent of the statutory requirement in the proposed 2017 Renewable Volume Obligations.

Clay rattled off a litany of positive selling points about renewable natural gas. For starters, there’s plenty of potential sources, the fuel reduces harmful emissions by an average of 90 percent, and discounts of 25-50 cents per gallon are available, at least from his company, compared to fossil fuel alternatives. However, Clay says there are still detractors from both sides of the energy debate. Some want a more progressive move to a completely electric vehicle fleet, while others see RNG as a pathway to simply switch many vehicles over to fossil fuel natural gas due to potential supply concerns.

Clay says he just can’t see it.

“In California today at Clean Energy stations, we’re 100 percent renewable natural gas in every gallon we sell,” he said, pointing to last year’s 50 million gallons of production. “There’s no reason we couldn’t be 100 percent coast to coast if the RFS is just kept stable for the next three to five years.”

Aside from a desire for regulatory certainty, Clay says he’s also running into challenges with the price of oil. He says the effort to get more natural gas engines on the road isn’t helped by low oil prices that give companies and consumers little incentive to look for a lower cost alternative. In the meantime, he said the company will continue to focus on expanding its reach and pushing the benefits of RNG.


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