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December 01, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Cities Use Clean Diesel as Key Strategy to Address Climate Change and Climate Resiliency Goals

Clean diesel technology is one strategy to help city leaders both reduce emissions and maintain resiliency in the face of a changing climate.

Mayors from cities both large and small across the country will be meeting in Chicago this week for the inaugural North American Climate Summit to talk collaboratively about how to reduce emissions and meet climate change pledges while also addressing strategies to adapt to a changing climate. Clean diesel is a trusted partner in helping cities achieve the twin goals of reducing emissions and fostering resiliency to a changing climate.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction Credentials of Clean Diesel

Today, transportation represents the largest single sector responsible for greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Proven clean diesel technologies are widely available and can contribute to reducing emissions. When it comes to transportation sources, heavy-duty trucks and buses make up 25 percent of emissions. Within this category, the largest Class 8 trucks make up 3 out of every 4 tons of emissions generated. Thankfully, new technologies are available that match emission reduction benefits with fuels savings that translate into greenhouse gas emission reductions. In the U.S., only 30 percent of the truck and bus fleet come with the latest clean diesel technology. Since 2011, the clean diesel fleet has reduce 43 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions. This is roughly the equivalent of carbon sequestration from a forest the size of Ohio.

Even greater benefits are easily achievable if more of the fleet were turned over to new technology that is sitting on dealer lots today. While 3 out of every 10 trucks on the road across the country come with the latest emission reduction technology, 7 out of 10 do not. Replacing older trucks with the latest clean diesel technology is the most cost effective strategy to reduce emissions relative to other available or emerging technologies.

Benefits of Advance Biofuels

One of the benefits of the clean diesel platform is its capability to operate on advanced biofuels like biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency categorizes these fuels as advanced biofuels that are capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent. In the case of renewable diesel fuel, the state of California estimates that the use of this fuel can reduce emissions by upwards of 80 percent. These benefits do not come with the need for additional refueling infrastructure or modifications to engines, vehicles and equipment.

The City of San Francisco is an early adopter of renewable diesel fuel. City managers are using the fuel exclusively in its fleet of heavy-duty vehicles and equipment, in its transit fleet and other applications. As an example renewable diesel’s proven benefits, over 600 San Francisco “Muni” buses are using renewable diesel fuel and reduced over 10,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions in a single year. The use of renewable diesel fuel is the single largest category of greenhouse gas emission reduction for the City of San Francisco and exceeds that of the city’s adoption of battery-electric passenger vehicles.

The benefits of the clean diesel platform that includes the latest engine, emission control technologies and advanced biofuels, has not gone unnoticed outside of California. The City of New York has recognized the enormous potential of the latest engines coupled with advanced biofuels to deliver significant greenhouse gas reduction benefits. New York City is already using 50 percent biodiesel in its heavy-duty fleet and plans to use renewable diesel fuel when that fuel is available. Coupled with replacing older heavy-duty diesel engines with the latest clean diesel models, the use of clean diesel technology in the short term is estimated to be the single largest contributor to reduce emissions from New York City’s massive fleet of vehicles and equipment.

Clean Diesel Helps Cities Adapt to Climate Change

City managers across the country recognize the climate change is reshaping the environment. Whether it is sea level rise or intense storms and flooding, clean diesel technology is a trusted partner to help resiliency efforts for cities.

Intense storms, like those in Florida, Houston and Puerto Rico, knock out mission critical power and restoring power can take days, weeks and sometime months. In the meantime, diesel technology is very often a mission critical technology to provide emergency backup power. Stationary and mobile generators are on hand to provide this power while diesel fuel is widely available and can be delivered if other sources of energy are not on-line.

Cities that are looking to plan for the future consider resiliency and adaptation strategies that include microgrids. Severe storms than knock out power to a much smaller area can be restored much more quickly than grid infrastructure that spans miles. Already, communities across the country are looking to install these sustainable microgrids that utilize the renewable power of solar and wind.  Yet, these sources of power are not completely reliable and are also susceptible to power outages. Thankfully, diesel technology can be used as a trusted partner to backstop these renewables and provide emergency power during an outage. 

The State of Alaska understands the benefits of diesel technology in providing mission critical power.  Many remote Alaskan villages rely on diesel generators to provide prime power. In an effort to reduce energy costs, Alaska is helping these villages harness the almost-free power of wind and solar.  Yet, diesel generators are still part of these sustainable microgrids helping to backstop power when renewables are off-line.

Cities are also changing their built environment to better adapt to climate change. Coastal cities are resurrecting marsh lands, establishing barrier reefs and sand dunes and even seawalls. City officials in Miami raised roads and highways on vulnerable Miami beach that suffers from sunny-day flooding. Other cities located near rivers are constructing and reinforcing levees designed to protect  vulnerable communities. All of these projects require the use of heavy-duty equipment to deliver and haul materials, move earth, poor concrete, lay roads and perform other works. Much of this equipment is powered by diesel technology and without diesel, cities could not prepare for the future and protect communities from future severe weather events.

As cities around the country consider strategies to address and prepare for climate change, clean diesel technology is at hand to help reduce emissions and also prepare for the future of a changing climate.


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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