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Renewable NatGas Offers California $14B Economic Stimulus, Report Says

Renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, could be a major job-creator in California and add up to $14 billion to the state's economy, according to a report released Monday at the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Long Beach, CA.

While analyzing various scenarios involving 172,000 to 516,000 low-nitrogen oxide (NOx) natural gas vehicle (NGV) trucks and more than 500 million diesel gallon equivalents (DGE) of RNG produced in the state, the report concluded that 81,000 to 134,000 jobs could be added in California between 2018 and 2030.

"For every job created through investment in low-NOx NGV trucks, fueling infrastructure, and RNG production facilities, about two jobs are created in supporting industries (indirect) and via spending by employees that are directly or indirectly supported by these industries (induced)," said the report’s authors.

While ACT's opening day was focused on re-examining last year's "Game Changer Summit," with an update on the advancement of near-zero emission heavy-duty NGV applications in the clean transportation sector, the Coalition for RNG and the California NGV Coalition released the jobs study, which they commissioned by ICF.

The report underscores the two natural gas transportation coalitions’ contention that a switch to RNG trucks could "quickly" help California achieve its air quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and climate change-related goals. "More than 95% 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," they said.

In Southern California, emissions from heavy-duty trucks represent the largest single source of NOx emissions, which combine with other pollutants to form both ground-level ozone and fine particulates (PM2.5), according to both the report and members of an opening panel discussion at ACT. Capturing and converting methane produced in waste streams, including dairies, agriculture, landfills and wastewater treatment plants, can cut GHG emissions by up to 70%, they said.

RNG Coalition CEO Johannes Escudero said that transforming heavy-duty trucks to run on RNG is good for the economy as well as the environment.

"Our industry is eager to develop new projects, create additional employment opportunities and supply the heavy-duty truck sector in California with RNG -- the lowest carbon-intense transportation fuel commercially available," Escudero said.

Advocating more aggressive policies in the state to meet overlapping environmental, energy and economic goals, the ICF report said more deployment of RNG presents a "compelling economic opportunity." The key is creating a "sustainable and robust" alternative transportation fuel industry in California, the report concluded, using an input-output model.

The model considered low-NOx NGV trucks deployed through 2030, concentrating on one of two truck strategies and maximizing the state's potential sources of RNG from four principal areas: landfills, wastewater treatment plants, dairies and biomass, such as agricultural and forestry residue.

ICF's report concluded that there are "few comparable opportunities" for developing "a robust alternative transportation fuel production industry" in the state, adding that low-NOx trucks, combined with the use of California-produced RNG have the potential to displace 1 billion DGEs annually.

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