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October 29, 2018   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Diesel Helps Cities Meet Sustainability Goals AND Stay Within a Budget

As U.S. cities continue to expand, the drive to provide essential services with a minimal environmental footprint while working within a budget will be challenging.

According to the U.S. Census Department, over 60 percent of Americans live in cities. Our urban and suburban population is growing and is expected to continue this upward trend. Expanding metros mean expanding city services. More and more cities are now considering policies to meet the expanding essential services while reducing the environmental footprint all while keeping within a budget. This is quite a tall order for America’s city leaders.

Diesel technology has been an integral technology to help provide essential city services. The latest diesel technologies can help make sure that these services are provided with minimal impact to the environment while also keeping within a budget.

If you live in a city, take a look around and you will see diesel technology hard at working helping your daily routine. 90 percent of America’s transit bus fleet and 95 percent of our school bus fleet is powered by diesel. That siren you hear is probably a firetruck or ambulance. Ninety percent of these first responder vehicles are diesel. If you take a train to work, diesel is the preferred technology that power these locomotives. Thirty-nine states are home to ferry operations providing mobility services to their residents. These ferries are exclusively powered by diesel technology. When it snows, there is good chance that diesel powers the snow plow to make sure you can get to work and your kids can get to school safely. When you take the trash out, there is a good chance that diesel powers the refuse hauler.

Diesel is also a prime technology helping provide essential, even critical, services for cities in other ways. For decades, cities have relied on diesel emergency backup generators to deliver mission critical power during outtages due to severe weather events or other disturbances. Diesel generators may be stationary or they may be mobile allowing the technology to be delivered to any hard-hit location. These generators are powered by diesel fuel that may also be delivered to any location and is not subject to a supply disruption like other fuels. There is a good chance that your community’s wastewater treatment facility, emergency shelter, cell and communications tower, police and firehouse, school, and even ATM facilities have a stationary diesel generator or the necessary electrical switchgear to accept a mobile diesel generator.

Thanks to decades of innovation and research,  the latest clean diesel innovations are ready today to provide these essential city services while reducing emissions to near zero levels and help cities meet sustainability goals. Since 2010, new trucks, buses, refuse haulers and other big things that are designed to travel on our roads must come with the latest near-zero emissions technology. Today, one-in-three of these vehicles comes with these clean diesel innovations that have reduced 26 million tons of ozone forming compounds and 59 million tons of carbon emissions. These same near-zero emissions standards are also now required of much larger applications like engines that power commuter locomotives, ferry boats, and off-road equipment. Because these engines are much larger and operate sometimes around the clock, replacing older models with the latest clean diesel models can have a much greater emission reduction benefit.

Today, alternatives to diesel exist, and others are still on the drawing board. For some applications, diesel is the only technology available. For city leaders tasked with providing essential services and reducing the environmental benefit of these services, clean diesel is a cost effective solution. Relative to existing alternatives, new diesel models come with a much lower prices tag. Alternatives frequently require additional and expensive recharging or refueling infrastructure investments.  Often the emission reduction benefits that these alternatives provide is minimal compared with investment in the latest clean diesel models.  A growing list of municipalities are investing exciting advanced biofuels including renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel. Cities throughout California are making the switch to renewable diesel while cities in the Northeast are expanding the use of biodiesel. Both of these fuels are considered advance biofuels by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by upwards of 50 percent.  Often, these advance biofuel investment little if any additional refueling requirements.

As U.S. cities continue to expand, the drive to provide essential services with a minimal environmental footprint while working within a budget will be challenging.  When it comes powering fleets and delivering essential city services, diesel is a key technology and one that can contribute to sustainability goals while working within a budget.



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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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