New study shows economic value of RNG in California

By RNG Coalition | May 01, 2017

A new jobs study reveals that deploying trucks fueled by renewable natural gas could create up to 130,000 new jobs and add $14 billion to California’s economy. The ‘RNG Jobs Report’ examines the economic potential of fueling heavy-duty trucks with renewable natural gas produced in California, instead of being powered by petroleum-based diesel. The study was released jointly today by the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas (RNG Coalition) and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo, the nation’s largest alternative, clean-fleet trade show.

A switch to renewable natural gas trucks could quickly help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change-related goals, the two coalitions say.  More than 95 percent of the trucks on California roads currently use petroleum-based diesel fuel and are a major source of particulate, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and GHG emissions. In Southern California, the heavy-duty trucking sector is the single largest source of NOx emissions, which combine with other pollutants to form both ground-level ozone and fine particulates, also known as PM2.5. Those pollutants are responsible for a wide range of health impacts from exacerbating  asthma to premature deaths. In fact, the ports and related goods-movement activity emit more than 35 percent of all smog-forming pollutants in the region.

Renewable natural gas (RNG or Biomethane) is produced from methane captured as organic materials decompose in renewable waste streams, including from dairies, agriculture, landfills, and wastewater treatment plants. By capturing and converting methane for use as a substitute or blended fuel, transportation companies and fleets can reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 70 percent.  The latest heavy-duty renewable natural gas engines reduce NOx emissions by 90 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This study affirms what we have been advocating–increased production, deployment and utilization of RNG not only realizes significant benefits for our environment, but for our economy as well,” said Johannes Escudero, CEO of the RNG Coalition. “Our industry is eager to develop new projects, create additional employment opportunities and supply the heavy-duty truck sector in California with renewable natural gas—the lowest carbon-intense transportation fuel commercially available.”

“We recognize the importance of ensuring not only we clean up our air,” said Thomas Lawson, CNGVC president, “but that when evaluating alternative solutions, we also consider the impact on our economy. This study shows that renewable natural gas deployed in natural gas vehicles, will not only improve our air quality, but serve as an economic engine for all Californians, too.

“As an air quality advocate, I see green jobs as the best jobs. It’s good to see renewable natural gas add green jobs to our economy,” said Joe Lyou, South Coast Air Quality Management District board member and president and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air, a Los Angeles-based environmental nonprofit.

The newest heavy-duty natural gas engines are well-suited for transit and refuse applications, and big enough to haul freight. As large as 9 liters with 320 horsepower, the engines are certified by the California Air Resources Board at “near-zero” emissions levels, equivalent to a 100 percent battery truck. A 12-liter near-zero engine with 400 horsepower, specifically designed for heavy-duty trucks, is slated for production later this year.

The study, produced by ICF, reflects options to deploy low NOx natural gas trucks in various applications and vehicle classes through 2030. The number of trucks considered is linked to one of two strategies:

  • Low NOx trucks deployed at the San Pedro Bay Ports in Southern California. 
  • Low NOx trucks deployed in the California Air Resources Board’s mobile source strategy.

 

As shown in the chart, switching to natural gas trucks fueled by RNG at the two San Pedro Bay Ports in Southern California would add more than 23,000 job and $2 billion in economic benefits.  A state-wide solution that includes the Air Resources Board’s mobile source strategy would result in up to 134,000 jobs and $14 billion in economic benefits.

For every job created through direct investment in the trucking and goods movement sector powered by California-produced renewable natural gas, two more jobs will be created. The study estimates that these are high-paying jobs, with estimated labor income more than double California’s current median income. The jobs and economic activity from investments in a natural gas trucks powered by in-state renewable natural gas support California’s diverse economy, supporting various levels of skilled workers in sectors including construction, fabrication, vehicle manufacturing, engineering services, waste management, and service industries.  The full study is available here.