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July 14, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Clean Diesel is Ready to Deliver Carbon Reductions for California Today. So Why Are We Waiting?

Getting more clean diesel technologies on the road faster can provide California with an insurance policy to make sure it will help get to its GHG emissions target on time, if not sooner.

The California legislature is close to extending the cap and trade program for another ten years and clean diesel is ready today to help achieve these targets earlier. By 2030, California will hopefully reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels through policy incentives and funding programs. But why wait until 2030 when available technologies are waiting ready to help reduce emissions more quickly? Getting more clean diesel technologies on the road faster can provide California with an insurance policy to make sure it will help get to its target on time, if not sooner.

According to the Air Resources Board, transportation sources make up the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, about 37 percent. Passenger cars are the largest source, but heavy-duty applications, primarily heavy-duty trucks, make up about 25 percent of transportation sources of emissions. Much like passenger cars, new and newer heavy-duty trucks must meet strict fuel economy and greenhouse gas emission reduction standards.

California has one of the oldest fleets in the country. The Golden State ranks #46 for the adoption of trucks that meet the most recent emissions standard set for model year 2010. While the standard was established to reduce emissions, technology to meet the rule also provided fuel economy benefits. According to analysis conducted by the Diesel Technology Forum, about one-in-four trucks in California come with the latest technology and have reduced C02 by 3.7 million tons over five  years. Even greater reductions can be had if more of California’s aging truck fleet is replaced with new and existing technologies. 

These are benefits that are achievable through available technologies that are sitting on dealer lots across California today.

The greenhouse gas emission reduction benefits of clean diesel trucks gets even better. Clean diesel technologies exponentially reduce emissions of black carbon – a potent yet short-lived greenhouse gas. Particles associated with unburned fuel are deposited on polar ice and are in part responsible for a warming polar region. Still yet, recent greenhouse gas declines in emissions of heavy-duty trucks is attributable to fast growing use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel. Both are considered advanced biofuel by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“The continuously increasing market penetration of biodiesel and renewable diesel was able to offset the increase in on-road heavy-duty diesel use. As a result, the on-road heavy-duty diesel category showed an overall decrease in “included” emissions.” - 2017 Edition California GHG Emission Inventory, California Air Resources Board. 

The policy incentives and funding priorities to help meet these targets are leaving tons of easily achievable greenhouse gas emissions on the table. “Cap and trade” funded programs relative to commercial trucks almost exclusively favor emerging technology research and advanced demonstration projects that – if proven – may generate results in a generation. Still yet, California is the only state in the nation that will require new trucks on the road to meet the latest standard…by 2023. That is about six and a half years from now, meanwhile CO2 emissions are easily to be reduced.

Thankfully, there is another policy lever California’s leaders can push to help get available technologies on the road to reduce carbon and also other emissions. The Golden State is set to receive almost half a billion dollars through the settlement with VW to replace older trucks and equipment. If spent wisely, these funds can replace the oldest vehicles and off-road equipment to generate both CO2 reductions and other emissions that help improve local air quality.  According to research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum, there are just over 40,000 of the largest Class 8 trucks that are of the oldest generation of technology in California. Replacing these with the newest generation could reduce CO2 emissions by over 25,000 tons and provide other emission reductions to help improve air quality for those communities most in need.

While California policymakers have their eyes on 2030, clean diesel is ready to get California on its greenhouse gas reduction path today. We just need the right policies and funding priorities to generate these benefits for all Californians. 


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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