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Sen. Brown Introduces National Clean Energy Legislation

Senator Sherrod Brown wants to encourage the nation to use a clean energy program being used here in Central Ohio. The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, or SWACO, is converting the methane from its landfills into natural gas fuel for some city vehicles. As garbage decomposes, it naturally produces methane gas. Most of the time, landfills burn the methane - releasing carbon dioxide, a green house gas. But by using technology developed and manufactured in Ohio, SWACO is capturing that gas and using it to power vehicles.

The compressed natural gas - or CNG - filling station currently services about ten local government vehicles equipped to run on the fuel. SWACO Executive Director Ron Mills says the filling station is not yet a viable option for everyday citizens because of a lack of infrastructure.

"In the meantime, our plan is to focus on fleets of vehicles. Such things as the City of Columbus refuse collection fleet where those vehicles or trucks leave a common point every morning, and return that point every night," says Mills.

Mills says the advantage of methane as a source of fuel is that it is already an abundant resource - America does not have a shortage of landfills. And he says, unlike corn-based ethanol, it does not take much energy to convert methane.

"The amount of energy that is used in the processing of that gas and compressing it, is minimal compared to the yield we get when used as a fuel."

Mills says the cost to produce a unit of C-N-G equivalent to one gallon of gasoline would be about $2.25. He says making it locally has its perks as well. "Because we produce it here from gas that comes out of our landfill, it will not be subject to the wide swings in market price that we see in crude oil."

Senator Sherrod Brown is introducing national legislation to encourage methane conversion in landfills around the country. Brown says the bill would create a $250 million grant program through the Department of Energy.

"To encourage municipal solid waste systems to follow the lead of SWACO with grants up to $5 million each. They'll be competitive and they'll work in ways that will create the kinds of alternative energy sources that we need," says Brown.

Mills says the EPA reports that about 10% of the landfills in the United States could feasibly use this technology, and that it has the potential to reduce US dependence on foreign oil by 4%.