This article is part of a series profiling members of SAFE’s Energy Security Leadership Council (ESLC), a group of business and former military leaders committed to reducing the United States’ dependence on oil.
Waste Management, headquartered in Houston, has been an industry leader in transitioning to alternative sources of fuel. Its fleet—one of the biggest in North America with 18,500 vehicles—includes an increasing number of vehicles that run on petroleum alternatives including compressed natural gas (CNG) and other renewable transportation fuels. Currently, it is investing in further expanding its fleet of trucks that runs on CNG and renewable natural gas along with building more refueling stations. In fact, the company is in the process of using new trucks with near zero emissions—effectively reducing emissions of NOx by 95 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by over 80 percent when combined with renewable natural gas fuel.
Waste Management’s fleet—one of the biggest in North America with 18,500 vehicles—includes an increasing number of vehicles that run on petroleum alternatives including compressed natural gas (CNG) and other renewable transportation fuels.
Waste Management joined SAFE’s ESLC in 2007, taking up the issues of petroleum dependence and energy security when the company was planning how it would reduce its greenhouse gas footprint. At the same time, the U.S. was spending billions of dollars on wars in the Middle East that were directly connected to oil. Waste Management aligned with SAFE’s goals of bolstering domestic oil and gas supplies and reducing dependence on petroleum in the transportation sector for national security reasons.
“We realized that we as a country needed to get away from the dynamic of relying on oil from overseas,” Kerry Kelly, Senior Director of Federal Affairs at Waste Management, told The Fuse. “It’s important for public policy to steer us toward relying on domestic fuels and creating efficiencies.”
She added: “SAFE provided a broad public policy framework to link ongoing efforts to reducing oil dependence to the passion of our existing board members.”
The company’s philosophy of reducing petroleum use for national security and environmental reasons has also helped it cut costs. Besides cutting emissions, the company’s use of CNG has produced concrete cost savings over time. Natural gas is less expensive and more stable in price and supply than diesel fuel. Maintenance costs are also low and the trucks are quieter, which its drivers and customers like.
The company’s philosophy of reducing petroleum use for national security and environmental reasons has also helped it cut costs.
Of Waste Management’s 17,000 trucks, some 6,600 consume natural gas, and 90 percent of its annual newly purchased trucks run on natural gas, highlighting the company’s aggressive push to reduce both costs and emissions with alternatives. In recent years, the company has utilized renewable natural gas—converting landfill gas into fuel for its fleet—as a way of producing credits through the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to sell to other companies so they can comply.
Kelly highlighted how important public policy is for reducing oil demand and promoting alternatives. “We’d hate to see public policy take a step back with renewable fuels,” she said. “It’s where the growth is in domestic energy.”
Other companies that use heavy-duty trucks are following Waste Management’s example, evolving from using diesel to natural gas. This trend could have profound effects on petroleum dependence given that diesel demand is expected to continue to rise for the next couple of decades due to use in the heavy-duty sector. Waste Management estimates that for every diesel truck replaced with natural gas, it cuts consumption of diesel by an average of 8,000 gallons per year while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 14 metric tons per year.