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September 08, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

The 2.8 Million Pound Downside of Ignoring Clean Diesel

Rather than follow the climate and clean air priorities as stated by California’s residents, port leaders are choosing to double down on long term investments without generating near term benefits for those communities most in need of near term solutions.

Recently, leaders for America’s largest port complex asked their communities to ignore 1,400 tons or 2.8 million lbs. of emissions in favor emerging yet unavailable technology. While the latest clean diesel technologies are available to reduce 1,400 tons of emissions today, port leaders are asking residents to wait 13 years for the emergence of the zero emission truck. This strategy runs against the grain of what Californians want... clean air now AND clean air tomorrow.

Among California’s most sensitive communities are those located near ports and other freight facilities who have experienced more than their fair share of emissions associated with goods movement. For years, policymakers promised a variety of strategies to reduce emissions. In 2008, leaders for America’s biggest port complex - the ports of L.A. and Long Beach – took a huge leap forward and adopted the Clean Air Action Plan the required new trucks and equipment to help reduce emissions. As that plan nears its tenth anniversary, port leaders want to continue the strategy. Instead of relying on introducing proven and available clean technologies like clean diesel, port leaders are making a huge bet on zero emissions technologies in the future. In doing so, evidence suggests that they are ignoring 2.8 million lbs. of emissions that can be reduced immediately.

When the ports adopted their Clean Air Action Plan, they required that all 16,000 trucks serving the port come with technology to meet the tailpipe emissions standard set for model year 2007, the most recent standard at the time. Over 90 percent of trucks meeting the standard were diesel. Since then, a new tailpipe emissions standard was set beginning with model year 2010. According to the latest emissions inventory for the ports, about four out of every five trucks serving the ports comes with technology that meets the model year 2007 standard. Using data provided in EPA’s National Port Strategy Assessment, replacing 12,800 model year 2007 port trucks with the latest clean diesel technology can reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 2.8 million lbs.

This reduction can easily be achieved with proven and available clean diesel technology sitting on dealer lots across California. Instead, port leaders are asking communities to wait until 2030, by which time they believe that ...”all trucks will be zero emissions” - a rather tall order considering that none exist today. To compete head to head with diesel, a zero emissions Class 8 truck must be capable of hauling 50,000 lbs. of freight up inclines and across long distances with constantly changing origins and destinations to meet the needs of their customers.

This “zero emissions” strategy then is asking port communities to defer clean air benefits for many years while 2.8 million lbs. of proven emissions reduction can be had today.

A recent opinion survey suggests that a large majority of Californians approve of a clean air and climate strategy that couples investments in existing technology to deliver benefits today alongside investments in emerging technologies that may deliver benefits in the long term. Three out of four Californians believe that clean diesel technology is a proven technology to contribute to the state’s ambitious clean air and climate priorities.

Rather than follow the climate and clean air priorities as stated by California’s residents, port leaders are choosing to double down on hope and promises for long term investments to meet expectations, while sacrificing clean air benefits now for those communities most in need.


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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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