Director of Diesel Technology Forum testifies to U.S. Senate about role clean diesel technology plays in reducing carbon emissions

Diesel Technology Forum's Director Allen Schaeffer testified to the U.S. Senate about how new clean diesel technology is helping reduce carbon emissions.

A U.S. Senate panel heard testimony highlighting the emissions benefits in reducing black carbon that is accruing across the U.S. from the increased use and availability of clean diesel technology in transportation, construction, agriculture and other industrial sectors. The subcommittee also heard detailed testimony about the need to continue federal support for successful programs that provide emissions solutions for existing equipment which will also be increasingly important in helping meet national ambient air quality standards.

Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, testified during a hearing of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety entitled “Black Carbon—A Global Health Problem with Low-Cost Solutions.”

In his testimony, Schaeffer outlined the role of diesel engines in the black carbon inventory and the diesel industry’s progress toward achieving near-zero emissions across all categories of engines and equipment, while also offering support for programs like the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) that address emissions reductions from existing engines and equipment. 

According to the 2012 EPA Black Carbon Report to Congress, the U.S. as a nation accounts for about 8% of all global black carbon emissions. As of 2005 - prior to the introduction of clean diesel technology - 52% came from mobile sources and 93% of that was attributed to diesel engines. EPA projects this percentage will decline 86% by 2030 “largely due to controls on new diesel engines.” Some researchers estimate that particulate matter emission reductions from diesel engines in the U.S. may mitigate up to 15% of the U.S.’s contribution to a warming planet. 

“Thanks to billions of dollars in investment and unprecedented innovation in the industry, we have met the challenge of virtually eliminating emissions from diesel engines,” Schaeffer told the committee. “New clean diesel engines in commercial trucks and most construction and farm equipment today emit 98% fewer emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, of which black carbon is a component, compared to an engine manufactured in 1988.”

Reducing Emissions From Existing Engines and Equipment Key to Continued Clean Air Progress; Federal DERA and CMAQ Funding Programs Remain Important To National Effort

“While new clean diesel technology has dramatically reduced diesel emissions to near zero for newer engines and equipment, proven programs that help reduce emissions from existing engines and equipment, programs like DERA and funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) are a key means to reduce particulate emissions from older existing diesel engines,” Schaeffer testified.

“To date, despite only partial funding, the emissions reductions achieved from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) are impressive. Between 2008 and 2010, according to US EPA’s Second Report to Congress, the DERA program reduced over 12,000 tons of particulate matter emissions and over 200,000 tons of NOx – an impressive achievement that provides real air quality benefits to almost every community.

“DERA has improved America’s air quality by modernizing older diesel engines and equipment through engine replacements and retrofits,” Schaeffer told the subcommittee. “DERA addresses all of the ‘Big E’s’ – environment, energy and economy. In its first year alone DERA resulted in 46,000 less tons of NOx; 464,000 less tons of CO2as well as saving 3.2 million gallons of diesel fuel; an economic gain of $8 million to the economy.

“In the coming years, emissions reductions from modernizing and upgrading existing engines and equipment will be even more important as state and local governments work to comply with more stringent national ambient air quality standards for particulate matter and possibly ozone.  Programs like DERA and CMAQ will be critical to the successful compliance with these new clean air standards.”

New Clean Diesel Technology Impacts Are Profound in California; By 2015, Diesel Will Drop From Being The 6th To 12th Largest Source of Particulate Emissions

“The new generation of clean diesel technology offers not only near-zero emissions but also significant fuel savings, is widely accepted and this is where the largest clean air and climate benefits are being delivered,” Schaeffer said. “The impacts of new clean diesel technology are particularly profound in California.  In less than two years, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) estimates that on- and off-road diesel equipment and vehicles will represent less than 9% of particulate matter emissions; residential heating and road dust will contribute more to soot emissions. 

“Thanks to the rapid adoption of clean diesel technologies, diesel engines will fall from the 6th largest contributor in soot emissions in 2010 to the 12th largest by 2015 in California. Climate scientists estimate that clean diesel technologies deployed in California alone may mitigate global warming effects by 5 to 15%,” Schaeffer said.

New Technology Clean Diesel Engines Now Found in One-Third of All Commercial Trucks And a Growing Number of Construction Machines and Farm Equipment

“The acceptance of this new generation of clean diesel technology has been outstanding,” Schaeffer said.  “According to data recently compiled by R.L. Polk and Company, almost one-in-three heavy duty trucks on the road today is now of 2007 or newer vintage of clean diesel standards.  These engines are found in delivery trucks, buses, fire trucks, and short-haul and long-haul truck and tractor combinations in communities around the nation. These engines that meet or exceed 2007 U.S. EPA clean diesel emissions criteria have already contributed to a reduction of 27,000 tonnes of particulate matter and almost 1 million tonnes of oxides of nitrogen.  

“Similar reductions in emissions of particulates and oxides of nitrogen are now in place for virtually the entire wide range of off-road engines in construction equipment and farm machinery, marine vessels and industrial engines.  And January 1, 2014 marks the final phase in of these ‘fourth generation’ or Tier 4 emissions level standards for the very largest engines used in large earthmoving and marine vessels.” 

Diesel Is the “Workhorse of the U.S. and Global Economy”

Schaeffer noted that “because of its unmatched combination of power, performance and energy efficiency, diesel technology is the workhorse of the U.S. and global economy, powering over 90% of commercial trucks, more than three-fourths of all transit buses, 100% of freight locomotives and marine work boats and two-thirds of all farm and construction equipment.”

Schaeffer also outlined data highlighting the significance of diesel power to the U.S. economy including:

  • The diesel industry contributes $480 billion annually to the economy in the forms of engines, equipment and fuels with a significant influence on 16 sectors of the economy from agriculture to wholesale trade.
  • Diesel is a job engine in every state, and accounts for about 1.25 million U.S. jobs- ranging from engineering, manufacturing, and servicing in every state of the U.S.
  • The diesel industry is a productivity multiplier because for every $1 earned by the diesel industry enables another $4.50 of added value elsewhere in the economy.
  • Diesel is an export powerhouse with diesel engines, fuel and equipment being high-value U.S. exports equaling five times the average export value and accounting for 4.4% of all exports ($46.2 billion).