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April 21, 2016   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Disneyland, New York City and the State of Oregon Show the Way to Cool a Warming Planet Now

Proven benefits from clean diesel technology provides us all with more confidence that the U.S. can fulfill its pledged climate reductions and that’s a good thing for this Earth Day and everyday.

Just a few months ago, the world’s leaders met in Paris to put the finishing touches on a plan to limit global warming by undertaking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Over 150 countries have agreed to sign on to the pledge. On Earth Day 2016, the United States will officially sign on to the Paris climate deal that will commit the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 26 and 28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025. The ambitious U.S. program, outlined in its submitted “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” or INDC, outlines promulgated and proposed federal regulations to limit emissions. Perhaps just as significant are the important measures adopted by important climate change actors not signatories to the deal – primarily states, municipalities, businesses and other “non-state entities”. Here in the U.S. and abroad, many cities large and small have adopted measures to reduce their carbon footprint and many of these measures rely on the adoption clean diesel technology.

Background on the U.S. Commitment
The majority of the U.S. climate commitment rests largely in two areas; a  switch to  renewable sources of electricity generation as outlined under the Administration’s “Clean Power Plan” and efficiency improvements in the transportation sector. 

In the transportation sector, both the fleet of passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles that comprise most of the emissions are targeted for substantial improvements in efficiency in the coming years. Here, new technology diesel engines are already generating enormous greenhouse gas emission reductions. These reductions may hold more importance to the U.S. plan as efforts to tackle emissions from the electricity generating sector are stuck in legal limbo. According to research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum, the fleet of diesel cars, SUVs and pickups in the road since 2005 have eliminated 70 million tons of carbon dioxide and saved 261 million barrels of crude oil. To put this in perspective, this C02 benefit is roughly equivalent to the C02 savings of a 62 square mile solar farm or the same size as Washington, DC. As the diesel fleet grows, so too will its contribution to carbon emission reductions.

Still yet, diesel commercial vehicles equipped with the latest near-zero emissions technology to meet recent emissions requirements established by the EPA, have eliminated 29 million tons of C02 since these vehicles entered service in 2010. Two years into the first ever fuel economy requirement for commercial vehicles, it is on-track to eliminate 270 million tons of C02 by 2018. Diesel will deliver nearly all of these benefits as it powers the overwhelming majority of these vehicles. Looking into the future, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that technology deployed to meet proposed fuel economy rules for commercial vehicles will eliminate another 1 billion tons of C02 by 2027 and save almost 2 billion barrels of crude oil.  Again, diesel powered commercial vehicles are expected to generate these enormous climate benefits.

The Benefits and Savings From Clean Diesel are Clear….* 

Light-duty diesel cars, trucks and SUVs have saved* since 2005:

  • 70 million tons of CO2

  • 261 million barrels of oil

Equal to energy savings the size of a solar farm the size of Washington, DC (62 square miles)

*Compared to a similar gasoline vehicle

 Commercial diesel trucks have saved* from 2010-2015:

  • 29 million tons of CO2

  • 69 million barrels of oil

270 million tons of CO2 eliminated between 2014-2018

*Majority of commercial trucks powered by clean diesel.
Source: U.S. EPA Final Rule

 By 2027, commercial trucks will save:

  • 1 billion tons of CO2

  • 1.8 billion barrels of crude oil

Source: U.S. EPA Proposed Rule




Non-State Entities Investing in New Technology Clean Diesel NOW to Slash CO2 Emissions NOW 
While national governments are making climate commitments, other “non-state entities” that include states, municipalities, transit agencies, and businesses are making climate pledges of their own. Many of these climate pledges fall outside the official contribution announced by national governments. In fact, many of these pledges have taken notice of the benefits of clean diesel technology and incorporate efforts to adopt clean diesel engines and fuel into their carbon footprint reduction plans. In the run-up to the Paris Climate Conference, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced a plan to reduce the carbon footprint of the city’s massive fleet of light- and heavy-duty vehicles and equipment. According to the Clean Fleet Initiative, the largest contribution towards greenhouse gas reduction will come from the adoption of newer engines and advanced fuels in the city’s fleet of over 9,000 heavy duty vehicles and equipment. These benefits far exceed the planned adoption of all-electric light-duty vehicles. The combination of new technology diesel engines coupled with the use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel is expected generate about 34 percent of the greenhouse gas reduction benefits. The anticipated adoption of all-electric passenger vehicles is expected to contribute just 9 percent.

Not to be outdone, others are also taking notice of the unique climate benefits of clean diesel technology.  The City of San Francisco has transitioned its large fleet of heavy-duty vehicles and equipment to operate exclusive on renewable diesel fuel. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies renewable diesel fuel as an advanced biofuel capable of generating a reduction in C02 emissions by at least 50 percent. Other municipalities in California plan to transition to the fuel including Oakland and Walnut Creek just to name a few. In Oregon, the  Department of Energy is helping fleets make the transition to renewable diesel fuel. Meanwhile, private businesses are also incorporating the fuel into their carbon footprint reduction strategy.  UPS, one of the largest logistics and package delivery services, recently announced plans to use 46 million gallons of renewable diesel fuel in its enormous fleet of vehicles. Google’s fleet of transit vehicles and Disney’s fleet of buses also operate on the fuel.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that cities, states and businesses can have rapid and significant impacts on reducing their CO2 emissions, carbon footprints and generate more clean air by investing in new technology clean diesel engines.  And, running those new clean diesel engines on high-quality renewable biodiesel fuels  enables even greater benefits.  Proven benefits from clean diesel technology provides us all with more confidence that the U.S. can fulfill its pledged climate reductions and that’s a good thing for this Earth Day and everyday.


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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