Trash Gas Companies Combat and Capitalize on Pollution

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Jan. 4 2021, Updated 9:32 a.m. ET

Despite their undeniable impact on the environment, methane emissions don't have to be in vain. Companies are collecting the greenhouse gas from landfills, farms, and sewage plants to harness it for energy.

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These companies are fusing environmentalism with profit — something that could bolster an eco-economy for the foreseeable future.

Methane issue can't be ignored

According to the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), methane accounts for just 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. However, methane is 84 times more potent than the more widespread greenhouse gas of carbon dioxide, which makes the former gas an extremely pressing issue.

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Top sources for methane include coal, natural gas, and oil production and transport. Also, methane comes from livestock, agriculture, and landfill organic waste decay.

Because of methane's strength, it wreaks havoc on the environment when it seeps into the atmosphere. Methane absorbs heat from the sun, which impacts the climate. The average global temperature has increased by 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit annually since 1981. 

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Methane gas collection companies are creating a new wave of necessity

While the Trump administration rolled back methane regulations initially instituted by former President Barack Obama, the incoming Biden administration has a strong climate plan in place. On day one, President-elect Joe Biden plans to require "aggressive methane pollution limits for new and existing oil and gas operations." 

State and federal emission rules are leading companies to capitalize on the need for environmental credits. Diverting emissions into energy to keep them from the atmosphere can help build the energy grid while also helping private and public companies earn credits. 

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Trash gas is a byproduct that often doesn't get much use, but if harvested correctly, it can be valuable in numerous ways.

Startups are converting waste to energy

Whether you are an environmentalist or an impact investor, it's important to keep tabs on the growing trash gas sector.

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Tradewater pays cash for old refrigerants and destroys them in a way that doesn't have a negative impact on the environment. The company earns a hearty profit by selling off its environmental credits. Tradewater also does business as Refrigerant Finders to appeal to the climate change denier audience. Targeted ads help the company segment its audiences. Tradewater isn't publicly traded yet.

Dominion Energy ("D" on the NYSE) is seeking net-zero carbon emissions for their biogas business by 2050. Currently, the company is working with dairy farms and Smithfield (a massive meat producer) to install hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment to divert methane into energy grids. Dominion Energy stock is volatile, but its investments make a fruitful future seem plausible.

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Sierra Energy is a startup that was granted $33 million in Series A funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a Bill Gates firm. Sierra developed a strong blast furnace that heats trash to 4,000 degrees and harvests the gas to reuse for plastic and fuel. 

Duke Energy ("DUK" on the NYSE), a seasoned industry leader, is also looking for its place in the field. Duke Energy has paid out dividends to its investors for 94 consecutive years. The company expects to have a stronghold on renewable energy by 2025.

Even UGI Corp. ("UGI" on the NYSE) of frack-happy Pennsylvania is looking to capitalize on the trash gas trend.

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