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Corporate, Public Sectors Supporting Alternative Transportation Fuels

Corporate and government sector policymakers are gravitating toward increased use of alternative transportation fuels, including natural gas and renewable natural gas (RNG). The CEO of the nation's largest gas utility said that in the years ahead all of the alternatives from electric vehicles (EV) to fuel cell technology will be needed.

Those were the highlights of the final day of the four-day Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, CA. A heightened role for RNG in the natural gas vehicle (NGV) sector was promoted during the event, as was a "Sustainable Freight Transportation Initiative" that was released by a group of California agencies as a blueprint for the state to transition to zero- and near-zero-emission technologies for moving goods.

"When you think about it, the trucks you see on the highways everyday bring us life, bringing products and services to our communities," said Dennis Arriola, CEO of Sempra Energy's Southern California Gas Co., in his keynote address, which focused on "sustainability and goods movement."

That life blood for the economy comes at a price, however, Arriola said, in the form of dirty air. California is home to the six worst air basins in the nation, carrying heavy environmental and public health implications.

The gas utility executive said government and industry need to move faster to address this through stepped up efforts to transform the heavy duty trucking sector to alternative fuels, such as RNG. "We've made a lot of progress, but there is a lot more work," he said. "We're not moving fast enough; we can, and we have to do more."

If the air quality problems are not addressed, public health and other consequences will get worse, said Arriola, advocating for all alternative transportation technologies: EVs, clean diesel, fuel cells and natural gas.

"We need cleaner air and clean diesel is part of the answer, electricity is part of the answer, and so is natural gas," he said, urging his listeners to push for "inclusion, rather than exclusion" of technologies, applying an "all-of-the-above" approach to alternate transportation fuels.

"We can't wait for the perfect solution when we have alternatives that can solve our problems now," Arriola said. "Families can't wait to breathe cleaner air."

Panels of corporate and state government representatives outlined broader efforts in which clean trucking fleet fuels are a key.

Eric Olson, senior vice president at the nonprofit Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), said a new "Future of Fuels" document has been created by some of BSR's members as a roadmap and toolkit to clean up the goods transportation sector. Representatives from Coca-Cola, Penske Truck Leasing, Walmart and Unilever highlighted their sustainability programs, all of which involve the use of natural gas and other alternatives.

Walmart's Elizabeth Fretheim, sustainability director, said using cleaner transport fuels "makes good business sense," and the broader sustainability programs are a way for companies "to lead." Unilever's Fabio Baldassari, North American logistics procurement manager, said his company has a goal of doubling the size of its global business in 190 countries and cutting its environmental footprint in half.

On the state government panel looking at California's new freight action plan, moderator Jon Leonard, senior vice president at environmental consulting firm Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, said heavy-duty trucks are where both the problem and the solution for ozone-related pollution lie.

"In order to meet the state's air toxics, air quality and greenhouse gas emission goals, we need zero-based technology everywhere feasible and near-zero-based everywhere else relying on renewable energy," said Heather Arias, chief of freight transportation programs at the California Air Resources Board.

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