Helping to Secure America’s Energy Future

Helping to Secure America’s Energy Future

New Blog Post by CEO David Steiner

Multimedia from this Release

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 6:50pm


Last month I was pleased to join with leaders from other major U.S. companies, and senior military leaders, to focus on a long-term matter: our country’s energy security.

The importance of alternative energy as part of the nation’s energy planning can’t be over-emphasized.

As a member of the Energy Security Leadership Council of Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), I was on hand in Washington to help add my voice to this critical need – and, in particular, explain how Waste Management is already part of the energy-diversity solution.

SAFE is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that seeks to reduce America’s dependency on oil.
On the same platform with me were Dan Akerson, chairman of General Motors Co., and T. Boone Pickens, the well-known natural gas entrepreneur and booster (Pickens Plan) and CEO of BP Capital Management.

Together with other leaders such as SAFE co-chair Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx, we all are doing our share within the private sector to make energy security a priority. Producers, manufacturers and end-users of energy alike are rapidly innovating to prepare our companies – and our communities – for the future.

It was clear from the remarks I heard that meeting everyone’s societal needs today while making a difference to our nation’s energy future is something we all have in common. On Waste Management’s behalf, I shared how our company is literally transforming its fleet to all natural gas vehicles.

We put about 20,000 trucks on the road every day in North America. Four years ago, those vehicles were 100 percent reliant on liquid fuels – namely, diesel. Today, less than 80 percent are dependent on that fuel source. And we’re continuing to move the nation’s largest fleet of heavy-duty trucks rapidly into the future by increasingly adding more vehicles that run solely on clean-burning natural gas. Going forward, 90 percent of our new truck expenditures will be natural gas ones.

For every single diesel truck we replace with a natural gas vehicle, we reduce our use of diesel fuel by an average of 8,000 gallons per year, along with a reduction of 22 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year (based on replacing diesel trucks that are 2006 and older).

As a company, we’ve reduced our fleet carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent – beating our 2020 goal of 15 percent years ahead of schedule.  By 2020, our commitment will pay off as a reduction of 350 million gallons of fuel, about 3.5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and $1 billion of operational costs. And, earlier this year, we debuted our 50th natural gas fueling station in North America – in Mississippi.

That’s good for our business and that’s good for the environment.

There are other benefits, too. When you run a CNG truck, you have fewer moving parts, so maintenance costs are actually lower. Our new trucks also run quietly, meaning their sound passing through residential neighborhoods may become a thing of the past. I’ve only heard one consumer complaint about the shift to these trucks. It was from a customer who depended on the sound to remind them that that their home’s containers needed to go onto the curb!

To encourage others in the communities we serve to move in a similar direction as us, 18 of the fueling stations we’ve developed across America are accessible to the public. That adds tangible new infrastructure, and we hope others continue to add to the nation’s natural gas fueling infrastructure as well.

Waste Management also operates literally dozens of plants that convert landfill gas to electricity, or to natural gas for use in vehicles. Like wind and solar, landfill gas is a renewable source of energy and an alternative to fossil fuels. Along the same lines, in California, we have built and run a plant that actually converts landfill gas to liquefied natural gas. With it, we’ve created an environmental closed loop as the waste we collect in Bay Area communities is the same fuel that powers our trucks on their streets.  What’s more, the greenhouse gas emissions associated with this fuel are 20 to 25 percent lower than those of diesel, and particulate emissions are 90 percent lower. It’s the cleanest fuel available for heavy-duty trucks today.

And a couple weeks ago, we announced a facility that will create 105 million BTUs per hour of pipeline-ready natural gas from our Milam Landfill in East St. Louis, Ill.  This processed natural gas will be injected into the pipelines of a local utility and withdrawn at other locations for use in CNG-fueled trucks or other equipment.

So Waste Management fits into the big picture by being pioneering — and smart — about our energy-related strategy.

Those of us at the SAFE event in DC agreed that the best solutions for alternative fuels to continue to emerge in America will inevitably come about when industry, labor, government and environmental groups work together to move the nation toward a more energy-independent model.

I applaud these other companies’ wise approaches and leadership – and that of our military leaders – in pressing to meet these challenges. On the occasion to mark 40 years since the first OPEC oil embargo, which caused severe oil-related energy shortages in the US, it’s essential to do everything we can to reduce our reliance on foreign oil.  The advances being made today to harness renewable fuels and to unlock energy reserves in our country will help us achieve the energy security that is so vital.

But beyond business and economic and security reasons, the great thing I’m most excited about is that we have an opportunity to help hand over the planet to the next generation in better condition than when we received it.  Fostering energy diversification and energy security is one way we can live up to this promise.