Image Courtesy of Neste

Image Courtesy of Neste

Did you know cities are responsible for 75% of global CO2 emissions?

Transportation and buildings are among the largest contributors to GHG emissions. That’s why the need for cities to phase out of fossil fuel and transition to a more sustainable transportation system is more prominent than ever. Recognizing the need to create a healthier planet, many American cities have set bold ambitions to reduce their carbon footprint, pollution and environmental inequity.

Oftentimes, cities face challenges, such as a limited budget, to drive that transition and the lack of viable low or zero emission solutions available at scale. Specific to transportation, cities depend on medium and heavy-duty city fleets, such as fire trucks, public transit, refuse trucks, emergency vehicles and school buses. These vehicles are crucial to the safety and quality of life for a city’s citizens.

Reducing emissions from these vehicles - and knowing where to start - can be a challenge in itself. Repair costs can be high, downtime of vehicles can impact the service that cities offer to their residents, some cities might not have the budget for transitioning all of their vehicles to EVs or they might have old vehicles that have a larger emission footprint.

Thankfully, for these vehicles, renewable diesel offers a drop-in solution that delivers immediate GHG reductions and requires zero new investments. As a leading producer of renewable fuels, Neste is helping to provide American cities easy access to this renewable, drop-in fuel, so fighting climate change is as easy as filling up.

Helping Cities Meet Their Ambitious Climate Goals

Over 80% of the U.S. population resides in urban areas. As the sources of significant emissions and homes to large populations, cities are key to sustainable climate solutions. That’s why local governments are setting bold climate goals that include a faster transition to low and zero emission fleets.

For more than a decade, we’ve been enabling American businesses and cities to power their fleets with renewable diesel. The result is significantly less emissions with no extra costs. Renewable diesel works seamlessly with existing energy infrastructure and engines. Over the lifecycle, renewable diesel can emit up to 75%* less emissions than fossil diesel. Even better, some cities are taking a step further to create a circular economy, so their vehicles can run on renewable diesel made from their own waste.

A World-Changing Idea: A Circular Economy in Oakland

Much like other cities across the U.S., the City of Oakland knew they needed to take action to mitigate the effects of climate change. In 2020, the City adopted its 2030 Equitable Climate Action Plan, a comprehensive, ambitious strategy to address environmental, social and climate justice issues and reshape the City’s transportation sector. The City’s biggest goal? Reduce carbon emissions by nearly 60% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

Immediately the City started working with Neste and its fuel distributor Western States Oil (WSO) to create a circular economy in 2019, where locally sourced waste materials are used to create the renewable diesel that helps fuel the City. The results are clear - this partnership supports local businesses, reduces GHG emissions, and helps find another use for used cooking oil. Now, the City’s municipal fleet, including refuse trucks, street sweepers, off-highway equipment and many other vehicles are being fueled with renewable diesel.

Making Public Transportation More Sustainable

Public transportation is essential for Americans' livelihood for two reasons: First, it provides access to employment, community resources, medical care, and recreational opportunities in communities; Second, it is also part of the solution in the fight against climate change as traveling by public transportation uses less energy and produces less GHG emissions per passenger than comparable travel in private vehicles.

The most common types of public transportation in the US are buses, subways, and light rails. Transit agencies across the nation are increasingly taking actions to reduce their own carbon emissions to further the GHG emission reduction benefits associated with public transportation. Across the US, 178 public transit agencies have signed up for the Federal Transit Administration’s Sustainable Transit for a Healthy Planet Challenge, which encourages them to take bold actions and investments to cut GHG emissions.

For over 50 years, TriMet has provided more than 3 billion rides through its transit system in Portland, Oregon. However, these services were historically powered by fossil fuels. Considering its impact on the environment, TriMet decided to make a change. Today, they have a bold climate action plan to be net zero by 2050, as well as support and improve environmental sustainability and stewardship, and address environmental and social justice issues. TriMet is now powering 700 of its fixed-route buses with renewable diesel.

Cleaner School Buses and Fresher Air for Students

With over 500,000 vehicles, America's school bus fleet is the nation's largest public transportation network, providing transportation services for over 25 million students every day. However, 95% of the school buses are powered by fossil diesel. To accelerate the transition to a more sustainable future, cities and school districts are adopting zero-emission buses or transitioning to alternative fuel sources.

In 2017, Twin Rivers Unified School District, which serves more than 26,000 students, sought to reduce its GHG emissions through an aggressive climate action plan. What was expected to be a years-long process became an overnight success story upon switching to renewable diesel.

The original plan dictated the use of electric vehicles. Twin Rivers purchased 29 zero-emission electric school buses, however, this accounted for less than a quarter of its fleet. Renewable diesel allowed Twin Rivers to immediately transition 75 fossil diesel powered buses to renewable diesel. As a result, the Twin Rivers USD’s school bus fleet is now one of the cleanest in the country, consisting of electric buses, natural gas, and renewable diesel.

Looking Ahead

American cities have relied on fossil fuels to power transportation for over 150 years. This needs to come to an end as more people — whether they are city residents, investors, employees, or customers — demand action on climate change. Choosing to use renewable raw materials as a resource and making the switch to renewable diesel is a simple way to divest from fossil fuels and a cost-effective step for cities to take to fight climate change.

*Lifecycle greenhouse gas emission reductions compared to fossil diesel and based on current raw materials pathways. Calculation method complies with the LCFS CA-GREET 3.0.