New York City could meet its aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goal by bringing in renewable natural gas-powered trash trucks, according to a New York Times opinion piece.
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York has set clear, aggressive goals for reducing emissions that would make the city a national leader in mitigating climate change. It came from last year’s Paris climate agreement, after which the mayor pledged to include cutting emissions from the city’s vehicle fleets by 50 percent by 2025, and by 80 percent by 2035.
Other decisions now in the works could block the city from meeting its climate change targets, according to a guest column in today’s Times. Robert Catell, a former chairman of the electricity and natural gas delivery company National Grid, US, and Joanna Underwood, chairwoman of the environmental organization Energy Vision, think that the solution can come from bringing in renewable natural gas-powered refuse trucks. But the city has plans in place to buy 340 new refuse trucks this year, with at least 300 of them powered by traditional diesel fuel. With a service life of seven years for these trucks, that would put the city’s emissions goal out of reach.
The city does have a goal to reduce fleet emission by 11 percent by operating more than half its vehicles at least partly on non-petroleum fuels, including hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Trash trucks offer a much bigger return on investment, the columnists said. Heavy-duty trash trucks, at about 5,200 vehicles, make up only a fifth of the fleet but produce more than 60 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions.
Renewable natural gas-powered trash trucks could be the solution with its carbon-free emissions. It’s been rated by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as the lowest-carbon fuel available, according to Catell and Underwood.
Trucks and buses need to be equipped to run on natural gas engines to use RNG for power. It’s not a fossil fuel like natural gas; it’s a renewable fuel made from biogases coming from decomposing organic waste. That could be food waste or wastewater, which New York and other cities have plenty of, the columnists said.
Other cities are already going this route. The cities of Sacramento and South San Francisco, Calif., and Grand Junction, Colo., are producing RNG from local waste sources to power refuse trucks and other municipal vehicles. In Southern California, Orange County, Long Beach, Culver City, and Santa Monica have committed to using RNG in their transit buses. Santa Monica has ordered 100 buses with natural gas engines to be powered by RNG. The bus engines were recently certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and CARB, and are being used by the city for making big cuts to greenhouse gases and smog-producing chemicals.