Redeem: Strengthening a Bridge to Our Renewable Energy Future

The country's attention is again focused on a hot spot in the Middle East that could be the next powder keg ready to ignite. Of course I'm talking about Syria, a previously fairly obscure country that has been locked in a bitter civil war since 2011 that has resulted in thousands of innocent bystanders -- many of whom are women and children -- dying needlessly.

But Syria didn't suddenly become important because of the atrocities that were splashed across the nation's televisions. Those kinds of harmful acts happen all too often and on several continents. What no one is willing to admit is that one of the chief underlying reasons why Syria was catapulted into a front burner issue in this country is because it sits smack in the middle of a region that produces a significant share of the world's oil. And if Syria ignites, the oil infrastructure could go with it.

What's happening in Syria is horrible.

But once again, we are reminded that both our country and the global economy are inextricably bound to a non-renewable, dirty fossil fuel that just happens to be deposited in one of the most volatile regions on earth.

I'm fond of saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago -- and that the second best time is today. Well, the same analogy holds true for energy. In 1997, I planted an energy tree with Pickens Fuel Corp., the predecessor company to what's now known as Clean Energy Fuels. It was a time when too many skeptics said that natural gas would never displace traditional oil, and that if it did, natural gas had the same problem as oil -- namely it's a limited, fossil fuel.

I'm happy to announce that on both accounts, the skeptics are wrong. Most Americans are aware that we are sitting on an enormous amount of American natural gas -- about 120 years worth -- and we are learning to extract it more cleanly and efficiently and use it more universally. But what most Americans don't know is that not all natural gas is a fossil fuel, and that it certainly is a renewable, cost-effective resource.

What I'm talking about is the introduction of Redeem, which after 16 years of research is now the first commercially available renewable gas vehicle fuel. Developed by Clean Energy Fuels, Redeem is derived from biogenic methane, the gas that is released during the decomposition of organic waste at landfills and other agriculture waste sources. Businesses and individuals are able to leverage a renewable resource that otherwise would have simply escaped into the atmosphere and been harmful. And it's not just pie in the sky wistful thinking: thousands of cars, taxis, shuttles and industrial fleets in California are already running on Redeem.

With renewable natural gas, we have planted yet another tree in America's energy garden -- one that is 100 percent renewable and leverages a fuel that's cleaner, cheaper and American. And it -- along with all domestic natural gas -- will help remove America's shackles from its Middle Eastern oil addiction.

It's often been said that Americans vote with their pocketbooks. To that end, the fact that natural gas can be one dollar less expensive -- or even more -- than diesel or gasoline should win over most skeptics. But if the economic motivation isn't enough to push consumers to purchase natural gas vehicles, then there's the patriotic incentive as well. Natural gas is American, leveraged by American companies and municipalities and could become one of the best avenues in this nation's energy portfolio to wean us from our OPEC addiction.

The private sector is already making it work in our communities. And don't just take my word for it.

Just look at Waste Management, the nation's leading provider of waste management services, for example. The company opened its 50th natural gas fueling station on July 31st in Jackson, Mississippi. In commemorating this event, Eric Woods, vice president of fleet supply chain for Waste Management, noted, "This is a significant milestone for us as we convert our heavy-duty collection fleet to natural gas. For each diesel truck produced in 2006 or earlier that we replace with a natural gas one, we see an average annual reduction of 8,000 gallons of diesel and 22 metric tons of greenhouse gases."

The use of renewable natural gas in our nation's vehicles underscores the fact that innovation is happening in America -- something we should all be proud of.

Twenty years ago, I said that natural gas could be a bridge to America's future of energy independence. Well, the future is today and anyone who says innovation isn't thriving in America better take a second look at our alternative energy options. Things are happening and we're looking at a much brighter tomorrow.