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April 18, 2018   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

For Earth Day 2018, the Customer is Always Right

Whether the U.S. is in or out of global climate agreements doesn’t matter as much as the consumer appetite and demand for fuel savings technologies.


The often-repeated axiom in the retail biz is that the customer is always right. This saying could hold true for the health of the planet. Whether the world’s second-largest economy is in or out of global climate agreements doesn’t really matter. Industries will supply fuel sipping, greenhouse gas eliminating technologies if the customer demands them…and they do. From cars to trucks to even larger applications like tug boats and locomotives, customers want fuel saving technologies. That’s great for their wallets and just happens to help mitigate a warming planet.

From heavy-duty trucks to off-road equipment to larger applications like tug boats and locomotives, diesel technology is the powertrain of choice. Relative to other liquid fuels, diesel is the most energy dense fuel and the diesel engine offers the most efficient means to transfer this power into work. 

While the powertrain has been around over 100 years, the engine of today looks nothing like the engine Rudolph Diesel invented in 1893. The diesel engine of today is still powerful and durable but now much more efficient and exponentially cleaner. The reputation for durability is exemplified in the largest applications like marine workboats and rail locomotives, and so too are the benefits. Replacing the oldest of these engines with new models gives owners big fuel savings, like one workboat owner in the U.S. Pacific Northwest who saved over 45,000 gallons of fuel each year by replacing 35 year old diesel engines with new models; that also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by over 1,000 tons about equal to switching 83 trucks to all-electric, according to U.S. EPA.

When it comes to commercial trucks, customers have demanded efficiency and demanded diesel for decades. Manufacturer’s investments to enhance engine efficiency and boost overall truck fuel economy are projected to deliver large benefits. U.S. EPA estimates that these technologies will save 2 billion barrels of crude oil and deliver 1.1 billion tons of C02 reduction while saving truck owner $170 billion in fuel costs between 2018 and 2027. Real money for truckers and real benefits for the environment.

And for the future we should not assume that every diesel engine is even running on diesel fuel. Trucking fleets and engine and equipment users are demanding petroleum alternatives to reduce their carbon footprint. Progressive cities in California including San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and others along with notable private fleets have made the switch and found that renewable diesel fuel can reduce greenhouse gas emission by upwards of 80 percent relative to petroleum based diesel fuel. Because renewable diesel fuel can be used as a drop-in replacement fuel, these benefits are achievable immediately without investing in expensive new vehicles or relying on the build-out of fueling or recharging infrastructure.

As we recognize Earth Day, environmental and technology policies are worthy of reflection. In Europe, declines in diesel penetration in passenger cars over the last 18 months is driving an unwelcome and but entirely predictable consequence: increasing C02 emissions. A recent BBC report concluded that in the UK, as diesel sales fall, achieving ambitious C02 targets under the Paris Climate Accord gets tricky. In the U.S. more diesel models are being offered and well received particularly in SUVs and pickup trucks; the fastest growing market segments and ones with the greatest fuel saving need and potential. And they are doing that without sacrificing vehicle size, range or utility and still delivering a driving experience and real-world fuel savings demanded by customers.

A nation’s status as being in or out of global climate agreements is but one factor; the consumer appetite and demand for fuel savings technologies and how industry responds are important as well. And here, industry continues to invest in making diesel more efficient and even lower in emissions, positioning it as a technology for the future, delivering the kind of fuel savings and performance that consumers and commercial vehicle and equipment customer’s demand. 

On this Earth Day 2018, consumers across the globe are signaling they want choice in fuels and technologies, and ones that are cleaner, smarter, more connected and more efficient, but still reliably deliver the basic needs of efficient work and mobility. As long as customers continue to demand what diesel has to offer, diesel’s proven carbon cutting ability will help bring cleaner air and cool a warming planet. The customer is always right.



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Key Contact

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

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