Diesel Technology Forum Makes Statement on California Air Quality

The Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum offers a statement about California's air quality and how it has benefited from clean diesel advancements.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Port of Los Angeles have reported dramatic improvements in air quality in recent years due to new clean diesel technology and they predict more improvements in coming years. However, in an opinion piece in The Los Angeles Times (August 13), former Sierra Club executive Carl Pope downplayed these major accomplishments and was critical of California enforcement and the diesel industry work in the state.

Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum, issued the following statement outlining the significant progress in California’s air quality programs and advancements in clean diesel technology.

“In seeking to make a simple point to urge the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to enforce its own regulations, Carl Pope’s piece 'Cracking down on Diesel' ignores the significant improvements in clean diesel technology during the past decade. It also diminishes the efforts of thousands of California truckers, contractors and others who have upgraded their equipment and invested in new clean diesel technology.

“Together, these accomplishments have dramatically benefited California’s air quality and officials at the highest levels of California government have called diesel advancements a success story. 

“The gains in clean diesel technology are largely due to the regulations and standards created by the CARB and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have resulted in new diesel fuel, engines and equipment that today emit near zero emissions."

New Diesel Trucks and Buses Have Reduced NOx Emissions By 99% And PM Emissions By 98%

“Over the last 10 years, emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses have been reduced by 99% for nitrogen oxides (NOx) - an ozone precursor - and 98% for particulate emissions to meet California and EPA requirements, making them near-zero emissions vehicles. Off-road engines and equipment are now in the final phase of the same transition. Critical to this progress has been the availability of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel, which has reduced sulfur emissions by 97% – from 500 PM to 15 PM - enabling advanced emissions control devices.

“No other sector has done more to improve California’s air quality in the last decade than diesel.  According to the CARB, particulate emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks have declined from 7.5% of the overall state inventory in 1990 to 3.8% in 2008, and by 2020 it will be just 1.6%. The ARB projects that from 2008 to 2020, while emissions of all sources of PM are expected to increase by 3.2%, PM from all diesels will decline by 58%."

Port of Los Angeles Has Seen Diesel Particulate Matter Decrease by 71%

“For example, the Port of Los Angeles, which instituted a landmark equipment upgrade and replacement program reports that as of January 2012, 100% of the drayage trucks hauling containers are now 2007 or newer models and particulate emissions from diesel use in the ports fell by 71% between 2005 and 2011. That translated into a reduction of diesel share of particulate emissions from 7 to 3% in the South Coast Air Basin.

”While the World Health Organization chose to focus on retrospective studies of 50-year-old diesel engines, the Health Effects Institute, CARB, EPA, diesel engine manufacturers and others have studied and found post-2007 newer diesel engines are cleaner and emit even fewer emissions than anticipated. As for adoption of this new technology, Mr. Pope says the problem is getting worse on the basis that growth in diesel truck use will offset the emissions gains from new technology diesel engines. That premise is faulty. It would take 60 of today’s near-zero emission diesel trucks to equal the PM emissions from a single 1988 truck. 

“Recent data from R.L Polk and Diesel Technology Forum estimates suggest that, nationally, more than a third of all the trucks on the road today are 2007 or newer clean diesel technology, and California is very likely ahead of that. Sales of new heavy-duty clean diesel trucks are up by 20% over last year in large part because of the 5% gains in fuel economy from the new technology that not only translates into cost savings for truckers, but fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and near zero particulate and smog-forming emissions.

“There are more verified and effective diesel retrofit technologies available today than ever before. From the very beginning, the diesel industry has been an active and strong supporter of important government efforts such as California’s Carl Moyer Program and the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act. 

“Today the diesel industry continues to work closely with users, environmental, community and public health groups to support these valuable programs. We’d welcome Mr. Pope’s help in this effort.”