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July 06, 2020   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

A Little Program with Big Clean Air Benefits

The Diesel Emission Reduction Act is delivering big on the clean air promise for many communities and Congress should consider boosting funding for the program.

If you guessed what federal program is generating some big environmental benefits by reducing emissions from big things that move, you might think of programs that invest Department of Energy R&D funds in exciting new technologies, or programs to plan and install charging stations for buses and trucks. While these maybe exciting and capture the attention of media, there is a little know program managed by the EPA that is doing big things to reduce emissions today.

Tucked away in the Energy Security and Policy Act of 2005 is a program authorizing funding for the replacement, repower and retrofit of older heavy-duty vehicles and equipment. The program, known as the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA), has been funded since 2008 and has done some really big things. According to the most recent report to Congress on the success of the program, between 2008 and 2016, the program has eliminated almost 500,000 tons of smog forming compounds, over 15,000 tons of soot emissions and 5 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

These benefits are critical for communities located near heavy-duty truck  and equipment operations including ports, railyards, large warehouse and logistics centers just to name a few. Residents near these communities have been promised emission reductions for years by their local leaders and the Diesel Emission Reduction Act has been a highly effective program to deliver on the promise of immediate term benefits.

One of the prime, but not exclusive, technologies introduced has been diesel. Replacing an older and higher emitting commercial vehicle, bus or piece of equipment with a new diesel option can reduce emissions by 90 percent or more and is highly cost effective relative to other alternative fuel or zero-emission options. This explains why diesel has delivered the most benefits to these communities most in need of emission reduction benefits.

The benefits of the DERA program extend beyond environmental. The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed severe economic costs on American manufacturing and the many men and women that underpin truck, engine and equipment manufacturing. Almost  54,000 workers are directly employed in truck and engine manufacturing and another 763,000 are employed by suppliers to the industry, according to the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association. Equipment manufacturing employs 1.3 million workers, according to the Association of Equipment Manufacturers.

Support for DERA generates significant environmental benefits directly to communities in need, but also helps underpin a significant domestic industry employing millions of hard working Americans. While the program has enjoyed support since it first received funding in 2008, Congress understands the benefits of the program. Efforts are underway to expand benefits generated by the program. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, in its surface transportation reauthorization proposal and the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis have called for a significant boost in spending for the DERA program to deliver immediate term environmental benefits while underpinning iconic sectors of domestic manufacturing that are experience economic stress.

While investments in new and exciting future technologies expand and as policy makers encourage adoption of infrastructure to support these technologies, the replacement of older vehicles and equipment with new diesel options through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act is already delivering big on the promise of cleaner air while supporting domestic industry.

NEW DERA Infographic


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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