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August 13, 2018   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Cooling a Warming Planet with Clean Diesel

The growing share of clean diesel trucks is an environmental success story that other nations are looking to follow to help achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals.

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other developing economies are also on the clean diesel pathway to reduce diesel’s share of black carbon emissions. The first step in this process is the requirement for cleaner diesel fuel.


An expanding global economy, particularly in rapidly developing economies, means access to the latest clean diesel technologies including those that reduce black carbon emissions and help cool a warming planet.



The U.S. is a leader in many things and one of those is the adoption of clean diesel technology. The growing share of clean diesel trucks is an environmental success story that other nations are looking to follow to help achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals. A new report shows that economies around the globe are on the clean diesel pathway that can help cool a warming planet.

What is Black Carbon and Why Should You Care?
When it comes to chemicals responsible for a warming planet, carbon dioxide gets all the attention. That’s because there is just so much emitted. Yet other greenhouse gases are contributors as well. Among these are short lived climate pollutants including black carbon that is generated by incomplete combustion of fuel. These small dark particles rise in the atmosphere where they reach the jet stream and ultimately fall as deposits on polar ice. These particles trap heat and inhibit reflecting solar radiation that plays a role in melting polar ice.

Most black carbon is generated by forest fires and charcoal stoves, but also from the use of fossil fuels including diesel fuel. Thanks to cleaner diesel fuel and effective emission controls, diesel’s contribution to black carbon reduction has fallen significantly and is expected to further fall as more nations adopt cleaner fuels and modern diesel engine designs.

The U.S. Shows the Way
Incorporating technologies that reduce diesel’s share of black carbon to near-zero levels requires two steps: the first is access to cleaner fuels. In the U.S., ultra low sulfur diesel fuel is required for on-highway use beginning in 2007. The second step is deployment of clean diesel technologies. With very low levels of sulfur, modern emission control technologies are able to come on-line. Of these is the diesel particulate filter (DPF). With the sulfur mostly removed from diesel fuel, these filters may reduce emissions of fine particles, including black carbon, to near-zero levels. Recent research shows that these filters are highly effective in reducing fine particle emissions.

Today, in the U.S. half of all diesel commercial vehicles come with a DPF while off-road equipment must also come with technology to reduce fine particle emissions to near zero levels. According to recent emissions estimates, these near-zero emissions diesel technologies are expected to reduce diesel sources of fine particle emissions 70 percent between 2005 and 2020.

Other Nations Are Following the U.S.
Thanks to a partnership with the United Nationsother developing economies are also on the clean diesel pathway to reduce diesel’s share of black carbon emissions. The first step in this process is the requirement for cleaner diesel fuel. In 2012, half of all countries require ultra low sulfur diesel fuel with a sulfur content of 15 parts per million or less. By 2021, 81 percent of countries across the globe are anticipated to adopt cleaner diesel fuel standards.

With access to cleaner diesel fuel by 2021, half of all sales of commercial vehicles and diesel passenger vehicles will come with a DPF. Worldwide, 20 percent of these vehicles on the road will have a DPF and this means good things for falling black carbon emissions.

Climate Benefits
Aggressive efforts to encourage the adoption of near-zero emissions clean diesel technologies could reduce emissions of black carbon by 92 percent, according to a recent report. These efforts include the worldwide adoption of cleaner diesel fuel and the greater uptake of near-zero fine particle emission technologies including DPFs.

Scientific studies estimate that efforts to reign in short lived climate pollutants, including black carbon, could halt a warming planet by 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050. In order to achieve this, diesel sources of black carbon emissions must fall by 75 between 2010 and 2030. Recent research shows this is achievable but only if all countries require cleaner diesel fuel and encourage the greater uptake of clean diesel engines and technologies.

The success of clean diesel technology in the U.S. shows that this can be done. Long term air quality trends demonstrate that the U.S. economy expanded over 200 percent since 1970 while emissions of fine particles from all sources if down 40 percent. An expanding global economy, particularly in rapidly developing economies, means access to the latest clean diesel technologies including those that reduce black carbon emissions and help cool a warming planet.

 



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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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