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Commentary: Natural gas fueling Wisconsin fleets for cleaner tomorrows

Commentary: Natural gas fueling Wisconsin fleets for cleaner tomorrows

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October’s falling temperatures and leaves bring with them not only the realization that harsh Wisconsin winters are on the way, but also the flavor of the month, pumpkin spice.

We use analogy of the “flavor of the month” for fuels, technologies and vehicles in the sustainable transportation realm, too. While some options may get more attention than others, it is important to remember that there are many long-standing options playing a role in reducing tailpipe emissions and supporting domestic fuels.

One popular option for Wisconsin fleets is compressed natural gas (CNG) and which provides excellent greenhouse gas emission reductions for heavy duty applications.

One type of CNG is renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane, which is produced from organic materials such as waste from landfills and livestock. Natural Gas Vehicles for America reports RNG provides a carbon intensity comparable to electric vehicles when produced with landfill waste and even less than EVs when produced with food or dairy waste.

Massachusetts to End Sale of New Gas-Powered Cars by 2035. Massachusetts has announced that it will require all new car sales to be electric by 2035. . The state detailed the plan and more in its “2050 Decarbonization Roadmap,” which was released last week. The report says that in order for Massachusetts to “achieve Net Zero,” on-road vehicles that use fossil fuel must be “all but completely eliminated” by 2050. . It goes on to specifically name “high efficiency battery-electric” and “zero-emission” vehicles as the most viable replacement. . Given the cost and scarcity of low- or zero-carbon drop-in replacement fuels and the current market and growing availability of high efficiency battery-electric and other zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) alternatives, this likely means reaching near complete electrification of the light-duty fleet, via 2040 Decarbonization Roadmap. State experts say that light-duty passenger vehicles specifically account for 27 percent of local emissions. Roughly 5 million light-duty passenger cars and trucks generate about 60% of transportation emissions, via 2040 Decarbonization Roadmap. Massachusetts aims to have 30 percent of all trucks and bus sales be zero-emission by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. . The state’s plan isn’t finalized yet and they are asking the public to provide feedback until February 22. . However, under the 2008 Global Warmings Solutions Act, Governor Charlie Baker has the authority to pursue many of the policy changes himself

One major benefit of CNG and RNG for heavy-duty vehicles, particularly in Wisconsin, is it does not gel in extreme cold temperatures like diesel. This makes it particularly appealing for snow plows.

Dane County is transitioning its fleet of diesel snowplows to RNG produced from the county landfill with the help of Kwik Trip. Currently, more than half of the fleet runs on RNG. Both are members of Wisconsin Clean Cities as is the City of Milwaukee, which uses CNG for its garbage trucks and snow plows as well.

Two other Wisconsin Clean Cities members, U.S. Gain and CMG CNG Corp. – headquartered in Appleton — have been working with Wisconsin dairy farms to produce RNG, including at the Clover Hill Dairy in Campbellsport. These projects are important to the state of Wisconsin not only because they increase access to a domestic alternative transportation fuel that helps reduce harmful tailpipe emissions, but also because they support the Wisconsin dairy industry and the farmers who play a critical role in our state and national economies.

Wisconsin companies like Contract Transport Services, Time Transport, Veriha Trucking and Paper Transport Services — all of which are Wisconsin Clean Cities members – and others for years have embraced natural gas as a reliable, affordable fuel for their heavy-duty fleets.

There are many CNG success stories throughout Wisconsin and the fleets making the investment in a cleaner, more sustainable tomorrow.

Still, it’s important to note that no one alternative fuel or technology works best for every application or fleet. The sustainable transportation “flavor of the month” might, indeed, be the best option for your fleet. Then again, it may not.

Wisconsin Clean Cities’ Smart Fleet Program can help fleets navigate which choice is best for them. The program provides a fleet analysis and report with recommendations specific to individual fleets’ operations.

Additional information on the Smart Fleet Program as well as programs that may be able to assist public fleets with funding to support resiliency in sustainable transportation is available on our statewide nonprofit’s Website at Lisek is executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities and president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.

Lorrie Lisek is executive director of Wisconsin Clean Cities and president of Legacy Environmental Services. The opinions are the writer’s.


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Michael Paul Williams — a columnist with the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Va. — won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Commentary "for penetrating and historically insightful columns that guided Richmond, a former capital of the Confederacy, through the painful and complicated process of dismantling the city's monuments to white supremacy."

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