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May 20, 2019   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Guess What Technology is Eliminating the Most CO2?

Data just released by the state of California shows diesel technology is running the scoreboard on eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the state’s ambitious sustainability goals.


When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from things that move, like cars, trucks and trains, all-electric battery technologies get all the attention. But today, far more greenhouse gas emissions are being reduced thanks to a decades old invention than the fleet of these zero-emissions cars and trucks. Data just released by the state of California shows diesel technology is running the scoreboard on eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to the state’s ambitious sustainability goals. 

In 1897, Rudolph diesel invented the diesel engine and it was initially designed to operate on biofuels, peanut oil more precisely. Fast forward 122 years, and diesel technology has improved exponentially. Advances in materials science, engineering and chemistry make the diesel engine of today enormously efficient and near zero in emissions. Diesel engines of today are still capable of operating on a variety of biofuels. Biofuels have also undergone a significant transformation since the days when Rudolph Diesel ran his engine on peanut oil.

Both the state of California and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency categorize a select few biofuels capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent as advanced biofuels. Both renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel make that list. Understanding the significant carbon cutting potential of these fuels, the state of California adopted the Low Carbon Fuel Standard with the aim if reducing the carbon content of transportation fuels by incentivizing the low carbon fuels and electricity.

For the first time ever, the biggest reduction in transportation sources of greenhouse gas emissions in California are attributable to the use of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel. Together, the use of these fuels eliminated 4.3 million tons of CO2 in 2018, exceeding that generated by ethanol and far greater than the 1.2 million tons of CO2 reduced by electric cars and trucks. Since that program began in 2011, biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel have eliminated over 18 million tons of CO2.

CO2 Reduction

It takes a diesel engine to realize these benefits. The use of these fuels by municipalities, transit administrations and private fleets is growing every year.  While petroleum diesel fuel is still the primary fuel type for diesel vehicles and equipment – California consumed 3.2 billion barrels in 2018 – growing availability of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel will help cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Biofuels Consumption

While battery electric technologies dominate the headlines, advancements to a centuries old technology is quietly cutting tons of emissions and helping California achieve its ambitious climate and clean air goals. Where would California be without the diesel platform?



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Key Contact

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

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