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December 11, 2018   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

States and Cities Wisely Choosing Diesel Projects for First VW Fund Allocations

When it comes to the allocation of these VW Trust funds, prioritizing the most cost-effective way of achieving the greatest amount of clean air ought to be the rule, rather than the exception

After more than two years of deliberations, planning and public input, the first rounds of funds from the $2.9 billion Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust are finally starting to be awarded to real projects in a few states across the country. A few states are wisely prioritizing investments in technologies that provide the most clean air for the most people, in the most cost-effective manner: clean diesel technology.

For a fixed investment like the VW Trust, more emissions can be eliminated by choosing the clean diesel option. As proven by the Diesel Technology Forum’s research with the Environmental Defense Fund, investing in clean diesel replacements or upgrades for the largest, oldest engines – like those that power marine workboats and switch locomotives – is among the most cost-effective options to deliver the greatest amount of cleaner air. To put this in perspective: upgrading the engines that power a single older marine workboat can cut almost 30 tons of emissions for a cost of about $5,000 per ton of NOx. Other strategies could cost six times more for the same emissions reductions. To achieve the same emission reductions, you’d have to take about 26,000 cars off the road.

When it comes to the allocation of these VW Trust funds, prioritizing the most cost-effective way of achieving the greatest amount of clean air ought to be the rule, rather than the exception. Indeed, as Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina observes, the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust is meant primarily to take old diesel engines out of service – not to advocate for or test unproven technologies.

Some of these clean diesel projects include:

Connecticut is using a portion of its funds to upgrade the engines on the Block Island ferry with new, Tier 4 diesel engines manufactured by Cummins.

Chicago’s transit agency, Metra, will use $14 million to put new, latest-generation advanced diesel (“Tier 4”) engines in eight older diesel passenger/commuter trains.

Massachusetts has set $7.5 million of is funding aside for proposals from non-road equipment and marine vessel upgrades.

In Arizona, school buses are the priority. While perhaps not the most effective strategy for gaining the most clean air, choosing the “diesel option” does offer the most cost-effective way to spend the funds As the governor’s office said, “fewer than 50 electric school buses could be purchased for the same price as more than 150 conventionally fueled vehicles. And, by extension, they said that replacing that many diesel-powered buses with new ones results in about 36 percent less overall pollution than buying fewer zero-emission buses.”

Similarly, Wisconsin just announced its plans to use nearly half its fund – $32 million of $67 million – on new diesel transit buses in cities across the state. As Valley Transit regional manager Ron McDonald said, "We anticipate seeing about a 97-percent reduction in emissions by going with this clean diesel bus, compared to what we have running right now. So that's a significant improvement on our environmental footprint."

Meanwhile, other states have chosen to misinterpret the Trust’s intent, instead using the money for research projects – such as Rhode Island’s dedication of $500,000 VW dollars to a single six-passenger driverless shuttle bus test project in downtown Providence. What is the NOx mitigation of this project?

As more states prepare to fund projects, clean diesel is ready and able to deliver the most clean air benefit at the most cost-effective rate to communities across the nation.

VW Fund Infographic


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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