What is Clean Diesel?


Share This Page

October 27, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

What Technology Cuts More CO2 than a Tesla?

To achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions and make sustained progress on climate policy goals whether in California or around the world, we need both more electric vehicles and greater use of efficient and clean diesel technology using low-carbon renewable diesel fuels.


Vehicle electrification is a familiar topic in the conversation of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially in California, which leads the nation with over 250,000 EVs on the road. But today, it is diesel engines using renewable biofuels in that state that are the greater contributor – delivering four times the reduction in carbon emissions than from electric vehicles. Surprising? While some have predicted the demise of the internal combustion engine, the benefits coming from the diesel engine are important for California and other states to achieve greenhouse gas reductions.

What are advanced biofuels?  
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies an advanced biofuel as a fuel derived from a variety of biobased non-petroleum sources capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent. Biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel are considered advanced biofuels. In the U.S., these fuels are derived from waste agricultural feedstocks including soy and other vegetable oils and animal fats. 

In the case of biodiesel, modern diesel engines may use up to 20 percent biodiesel with the remainder blended with petroleum diesel fuel.  In the case of renewable diesel fuel, diesel engines may use 100 percent renewable diesel fuel as it meets the same engineering specification as petroleum diesel fuel.  Given renewable diesel fuel’s very low carbon intensity – the largest supplier of renewable diesel fuel in California can reduce emissions upwards of 80 percent – it is a leading actor  supporting the Low Carbon Fuels Standard contributing to greenhouse gas emission reductions. 

The Diesel Engine Fueled with Biofuels May Deliver More Benefits than EVs
According to a recent report, the California Air Resources Board estimates that consumption of renewable diesel fuel is expected to increase to 1.4 billion gallons by 2030 - good news for achieving promised greenhouse gas reductions to Californians.   

According to a recent report, 2.7 percent of cars on the road in California are zero-emissions, yet 70 percent of commercial vehicles are diesel. When using renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel, these diesel-powered commercial trucks can deliver significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than the relatively small number of EV cars on the road. 

Powering more heavy-duty commercial vehicles with renewable diesel fuel can deliver significant greenhouse gas emissions at very low cost compared to switching to zero-emissions technology. Consider the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency which is powering 606 heavy-duty buses with renewable diesel fuel that eliminates  63,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions[i]. That works out to 103 tons of greenhouse gas emissions reduced per bus. Meanwhile, the City of San Francisco has purchased 142 EV passenger cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 242 tons by doing so. That works out to just 1.7 tons of greenhouse gas emissions reduced per EV car. 

With benefits like this, it’s no surprise that advanced biofuels like renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel are getting more attention. Public fleets like the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Walnut Creek, Culver City, San Diego, and Sacramento County along with private fleets like Google, UPS and Disney are all utilizing renewable biofuels in their fleets, along with other strategies as well.

To achieve significant greenhouse gas reductions and make sustained progress on climate policy goals whether in California or around the world, we need both more electric vehicles and greater use of efficient and clean diesel technology using low-carbon renewable diesel fuels.

 

[i] 2016 Transportation Technology Deployment Report -  Published by the San Francisco Clean Cities Coalition



More

All News & Resources


Key Contact

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

More Policy Insider

Sign up for diesel direct

weekly analysis & commentary from the diesel technology forum