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Cliff Gladstein, A Pioneer in Clean Energy

Cliff Gladstein

By Jack O'Connell 2015-05-29 11:47:59

(Article originally published in Mar/Apr 2015 edition.)

Cliff Gladstein, President, Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA)  is a clean energy pioneer who has GNA’s fingers on all the right hot buttons.

What first piqued your interest in the clean energy field?

I originally studied American foreign policy during the 1970s, which was the era of oil embargoes and energy crises. At that time I was obsessed with finding ways to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. This passion naturally led to exploration of cleaner energy technologies and alternative fuels. Not many people know this but I was a Ph.D. candidate at one time and one of my topics was the political economy of photovoltaics (solar cells). What continues to drive me today is that, as we work to expand the clean transportation market, we improve national energy security, create U.S. jobs, improve air quality for communities and aid our customers in reducing their operating costs.

Where are you based, and how many offices and employees do you have?

We are based in Santa Monica, California with offices in New York City and Irvine, California. Currently we have a staff of 40.

The range of clean energy services offered by GNA is staggering. Tell our readers about some of them.

The easiest way to describe our services is to look at our three main types of customers:

  • Vehicle & Equipment Operators –Whether a fleet operates on land, sea or rail, GNA helps design, develop and implement clean fuel projects that help operators reduce fuel costs and emissions.
  • Product & Fuel Suppliers – GNA helps build successful market development strategies for alternative fuels and clean vehicle technologies.
  • Clean Energy Advocates – GNA works with government agencies and nonprofit industry groups to develop policies and programs that advance energy efficiency and sustainable development.

Within the maritime industry, GNA works with vessel owners, certification societies, government agencies, port authorities, and engine and fuel suppliers to develop and implement some of the largest and most cutting-edge LNG vessel and infrastructure projects.

Does GNA focus more on the government side or the industry side?

GNA’s client list consists of about 200 organizations spanning the public and private sectors. About 10 percent are public agencies, which we assist in the development and implementation of policies that promote the development of non-petroleum-using transportation technologies. In fact, one of our senior leaders was a member of the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization that secured the Emission Control Area to reduce ship pollution within 200 miles of the U.S. coastline.

The remaining 90 percent of our clients consists of about 40 percent fuel or technology suppliers, 25 percent on-road fleets, 15 percent nonprofit/industry groups and 10 percent off-road fleets. We’re seeing considerable growth in the last category, particularly with ECA compliance standards having taken effect in January.

Do you have clients outside the U.S.?

Yes. We have worked with clients from Japan, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Here are a few case studies and white papers if you are interested in learning more about these projects:

Is GNA the leading consultancy in the clean energy field?

I think it is fair to say that we are one of the leading consultancies in the field of clean transportation technologies. For more than 20 years GNA has pioneered the nation’s largest and most innovative alternative fuel vehicle projects, including the development of several successful clean fuel corridor initiatives. Our firm has helped secure more than $255 million in funding (with a 90 percent grant application success rate) for our clients, and our projects have earned national recognition from organizations like the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Coalition for Clean Air and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition.

Is the trucking industry your main focus?

Trucking has historically been a major focus of our business. In recent years we have been applying the lessons learned from trucking to clean fuel market development in other high horsepower (HHP) sectors—marine, rail, mining, exploration and production, cargo handling and remote power generation.

Tell us about some of your maritime clients and how clean energy is impacting the maritime business.

Recent maritime projects include:

  • Assisting TOTE in its effort to secure LNG suppliers for both the Tacoma and Jacksonville LNG vessel deployment projects;
  • Helping Matson assess the opportunities and options for LNG supply in its West Coast operations;
  • Working with a large cruise operator in exploring the use of LNG in its operations;
  • Evaluating LNG opportunities for marine and rail in the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico and Inland Waterways, and
  • Performing market analysis and development for several marine engine manufacturers.

Natural gas provides tangible cost and emissions benefits that we will see increasingly adopted not just by marine end-users but other HHP operators in the years to come.

Is Europe way ahead of the U.S. in terms of clean energy applications, especially when it comes to maritime?

I’d say that’s a fair assessment. There are dozens of LNG vessels currently in operation in Europe, particularly Scandinavia, while we have just one in the U.S.—the Harvey Energy. To encourage market development in the U.S., GNA launched a first-of-its-kind conference in 2012 called the High Horsepower Summit. The four-day conference and exhibition focuses on the opportunity to use natural gas in place of diesel in the marine, rail, mining, drilling and pumping industries as well as remote power generation. Over the past three years, GNA has hosted a number of presenters from early-adopter maritime organizations including TOTE, Harvey Gulf and Fjord1.

We also hosted a successful workshop in 2014 called “Readying North American Ports for LNG Infrastructure.” Topics included codes, safety considerations, real estate requirements, permitting steps, project timelines and more for both land-side LNG plant development and water-side delivery of LNG by bunkering barges.

You can learn more about the conference here: http://www.hhpsummit.com/

Is LNG the fuel of the future for vessel owners?

We feel that LNG is an excellent marine fuel. It is a low-cost option, particularly in the North American Emission Control Area. It is the only option for ECA compliance that can actually save money over the operational life of the vessel. Even with temporarily lower oil prices, ships that consume 10 million gallons of fuel or more annually can realize a return on their investment in less than two years, potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel costs over the life of the vessel. Using LNG also helps operators address both current and future sulfur regulations as well as future NOx restrictions.

You are much in demand as a speaker and spokesman for the clean energy industry. What are some of your major themes?

One of the key themes I emphasize is not to let the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good.” There are so many excellent clean energy technologies, particularly in the transportation sector, that deliver an array of benefits. We should be using them all. They may not be the ideal solution to all our environmental, economic and social objectives, but they get us closer. There are some who advocate waiting until we can develop technologies that deliver on all our needs. Unfortunately, it will take a long time for “perfect” solutions to be created, commercialized and introduced to the market. In the meantime, millions of people will suffer if we delay the use of cleaner tech while waiting for the cleanest tech. We have a moral obligation not to wait.

Where would you like to see the industry – and GNA – in the next five years?

I’d like to see the clean energy industry taking even greater market share from petroleum and coal. I’d like to see the increased development and utilization of biological and synthetic sources of methane. I’d like to see continued expansion of the use of renewable energy along with technologies such as power-to-gas and advanced batteries to store surplus power. I’d like to see the widespread deployment of near-zero emission heavy-duty trucks and buses as well as accelerated progress toward the commercialization of fuel cell and hydrogen alternatives to diesel. And I’d like to see GNA at the forefront of all these innovations.

Wow. That’s a mouthful. Do you see yourself as an entrepreneur?

Many years ago someone called me an “ecopreneur.” I think that all of us at GNA would wear that label with pride.

How would you describe your management style?

I’d like to think of myself as more of a mentor than a manager. As GNA continues to grow, our strategy is to hire employees with a specific combination of qualities—integrity, passion, curiosity and a constant drive to improve the world around them. Our staff is incredibly bright, and I enjoy challenging them to continue thinking outside of the box. Innovation is vitally important in our industry, and I feel that it’s important to encourage people to think about things in unconventional ways and to challenge the status quo. It makes me proud to see how much my team has accomplished and continues to accomplish.

Tell us about your extracurricular activities, both in the industry and the community.

I teach air quality policy at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at UCLA. I also serve on two Boards – the California League of Conservation Voters and the Bioenergy Association of California. My wife is the CEO of a public radio station in New Jersey whose format is classical jazz, so I hear a lot of great American music. 

Read any good books lately?

My friends will hate me for this, but I am really enjoying Joe Scarborough’s The Right Path: From Ike to Reagan, How Republicans Once Mastered Politics—and Can Again. When I want to completely escape I like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books and the historical novels of Wilbur Smith.

Any last words for our readers?

We live in an increasingly fast-paced, exciting time. Often it appears that things are spiraling out of control, but I can assure you that we are making phenomenal progress, particularly on the environment. If you doubt that, just look at Los Angeles. In spite of incredible growth in population, economic activity and vehicles, the air quality in Los Angeles is so much better today than it was in 1975. Progress can happen and we can improve people’s lives without cratering the economy. Pollution can become a historical artifact. It really is possible to do well and do good at the same time. – MarEx  

Jack O’Connell is Senior Editor of The Maritime Executive

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.