Renewable Natural Gas and the Need for Clean Domestic Energy

RNG represents an opportunity to address inevitable waste streams, improve our nation’s energy resilience, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and decarbonize the transportation sector in America.
By Lesley Dalton | July 29, 2022

The importance of energy independence has been a topic of discussion for decades. Unfortunately, the conversation has too often been placed on the backburner as other issues divert our attention. The current geopolitical situation has once again put the need for domestic energy sources back in the forefront, however, and we must face this issue and act now.

With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. and the rest of the world are witnessing firsthand the need to reduce reliance on other nations for energy. Investing in our own domestic sources is essential to making our economy and country more secure.  And as we steer our focus toward domestic resources, we must also do so through a sustainable lens. Here’s how to start.

If you live in a town that creates waste (and every town does), then you have a continual source of organic material that could and should be converted into clean, domestic, renewable energy. As waste decomposes it emits methane, which is a naturally occurring, but potent and harmful greenhouse gas. Renewable natural gas (RNG) facilities capture this methane from existing garbage, inedible food, agricultural waste, animal manure and wastewater, and repurposes it as a clean energy source.

Because RNG captures emissions from society’s inevitable waste streams and redeems its energy value, it has the lowest lifecycle carbon intensity (CI) of any clean energy source available today. RNG uniquely takes a product that is negatively impacting the environment—waste—and creates a reliable energy resource that is fully compatible with our current infrastructure and appliances, serving an important role in the energy transition. 

RNG creates a circular economy by reusing local materials.  Recycling organic waste in this fashion creates carbon-negative renewable energy that is at the heart of sustainability. Additionally, the use of local materials eliminates the exportation of pollution, addressing environmental justice concerns.
RNG is a complement to other intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar because it is storable, dispatchable and can be utilized with other fuel, heat and power generation resources that provide reliable domestic energy.

In addition to serving as a renewable fuel for medium and heavy-duty vehicles, and renewable heat for homes and businesses, RNG is a feedstock used in the production of renewable hydrogen, renewable electricity, sustainable aviation fuel and bunker fuel for marine applications.  
Distributed energy resources make communities more resilient, and every country, state, province, city and town have the resources to create RNG. With local energy, production pricing and regulations from other jurisdictions become less relevant. Utilizing energy that is produced and or delivered locally is almost always going to be better for the environment, economy and society.

According to a 2021 United Nations report, methane emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030. Our waste and how we handle it has a large impact on emissions that greatly impact air quality and contribute to climate change. RNG is both an energy commodity and an environmental asset converted from an environmental liability.

Resources with multisectoral environmental benefits such as RNG deserve our support and advocacy. RNG represents an opportunity to address inevitable waste streams, improve our nation’s energy resilience, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and decarbonize the transportation sector in America. We need a diverse portfolio of solutions to make the transition to clean, domestic energy affordable, attainable and immediately actionable—RNG is an important component to get us there.

Author: Lesley Dalton
 Director of Communications & Marketing
Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas
[email protected]