Energy Vision, a national non-profit analyzing and promoting clean, renewable, petroleum-free transportation fuels, presented its 2014 Leadership Awards in the renewable energy field. The awardees are leading innovative projects to scale up renewable natural gas (RNG) vehicle fuel made from organic waste such as food, farm and yard waste and wastewater treatment products. RNG has ultra-low emissions and is growing fast. It has the potential to power many of America’s 10 million heavy trucks and buses. Converting 25% of them could displace more than 9 billion gallons of diesel fuel and cut GHG emissions over 89 million tons annually.
The award winners included:
Kathryn Garcia, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), the world’s largest sanitation department, which will be implementing mandatory commercial organic waste recycling in addition to its current voluntary residential organic waste recycling program;
Richard M. DiGia, President/CEO, Aria Energy and Harrison Clay, President, Clean Energy Renewables, whose joint project works with the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Seneca Falls, the first New York State operation converting landfill biogas into vehicle fuel, to ship its RNG to California, where Clean Energy Renewables distributes it to vehicle fleets.
Mel Kurtz, President, quasar energy group, the largest U.S. operator of “complete mix” anaerobic digesters, with 14 facilities in Ohio, Massachusetts and New York. The company has the capacity to annually convert over 700,000 tons of municipal and commercial organic waste into renewable electricity, heat and fuel.
Introducing the awardees, Joanna Underwood, president of Energy Vision, said, “The enormous turnout at the People’s Climate March and the UN Climate Summit both suggest that renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions have emerged as central issues of deep concern to people. That really could change the way we live.”
“As a transportation fuel, the methane captured from decomposing waste is almost totally carbon-free,” said Underwood. “If the gas is collected from landfills, it reduces emissions about 90% compared to diesel. But if it’s collected and treated in tanks called anaerobic digesters, with food waste as the main source, the resulting fuel is actually net carbon-negative, which means you take more greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere than you put in. Any vehicle engine designed to run on fossil natural gas can run on RNG. The technologies for producing and using RNG don’t have any fatal flaws; they work, and they work now. We’re excited to be able to give awards to some of the pioneers of this movement. Our dream is to see DSNY embrace this and be an example to the world. So we’re thrilled that Kathryn Garcia is Commissioner, and with the direction the Department of Sanitation is taking.”
“The practical problems of how we are going to help the planet and improve the air quality for eight million New York City residents come down to things like how you make a truck go up a hill,” said Brendon Sexton, an Energy Vision board member and the former NYC Sanitation Commissioner from 1986 to 1990. “Today the New York City Department of Sanitation has 44 trucks and more than a dozen sweepers running on natural gas, picking up real trash, driving real trucks across real roads. This has been a magnificent and almost impossible dream for environmentalists but it’s happening now.”
Sexton presented the Energy Vision Leadership Award to NYC Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, saying, “Commissioner Garcia is the reason there is administrative and political will, and a serious effort, to replace diesel with natural gas vehicles in the City of New York.”
“I cannot give enough credit to my staff, who think about how we can operate sustainably, and how we can have the least impact on the environment,” said Commissioner Garcia. “Waste is an important resource for accomplishing this. The nicest closed loop we can achieve is to collect our organic waste, put it in a digester facility, create gas, and use it as fuel. We need to work through the challenges we still have to move toward a full CNG fleet. In this way we can really do good for the environment, but also do well financially for the City of New York.”
Energy Vision Vice President Matt Tomich presented EV’s Leadership Award to Mel Kurtz, President of the quasar energy group, the largest U.S. operator of “complete mix” anaerobic digesters, with 14 facilities and more in the pipeline “Innovation always precedes legislation and regulation,” said Kurtz. “If no one is telling the story of what is possible, then the legislators and regulators don’t know what to promote or what to encourage people to participate in. That’s a big issue in our industry. The story of these innovative projects aren’t hypothetical. They’re real.”
A shared Leadership Award went to Richard M. DiGia, President/CEO, Aria Energy and Harrison Clay, President, Clean Energy Renewables, for their project with the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Seneca Falls, New York.
“Energy Vision has held the vision for what renewable fuels can really be,” DiGia said. “I started my career at Freshkills Landfill 30 years ago, dealing with operations at a plant that is still running and producing RNG today. Now, with increased access to renewable transportation fuel, we’re producing and putting RNG in pipelines and shipping it off to stations like the ones operated by Clean Energy.” Clean Energy Renewables, a division of Clean Energy, is the largest provider of renewable fuels in the U.S. Clean Energy’s California stations pump some 100,000 gallons of RNG a day.
“When I started at Clean Energy seven years ago,” said Clay, “it was a total revelation to me that we could put RNG in vehicles and cut their emissions 90%, and that it was cheaper than what they were putting in their vehicles. I thought, ‘why isn’t everyone using it?’ So we got after it. Today, the best is yet to come. We have a lot of opportunity to increase volume and change the way our transportation infrastructure runs. Change requires that you push and push and push. We are lucky to have Energy Vision, which knows how to really push, speak truth, and move RNG forward.”