Mayor Edwin M. Lee has announced that San Francisco will leapfrog its efforts to protect the climate from harmful effects of diesel emissions by phasing out the use of petroleum diesel in the municipal fleet and replacing it with renewable diesel by the end of this year.
“By changing our fleet’s fuel from petroleum to renewable diesel, we’re taking action that is good for the global climate, and at the same time promotes environmental justice in our community by leading to cleaner, healthier air for some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” says Mayor Lee. “And, because of the State and Federal governments’ incentives to producers to manufacture low carbon fuels, this switch can potentially reduce our city’s fuel costs. The City of Saint Francis is answering the Pope’s call for local action on global climate change.”
Mayor Lee made the announcement in Vatican City at the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences’ Modern Slavery & Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities conference, joining Pope Francis, Governor Jerry Brown, representatives of the United Nations and mayors and local governors from around the world to drive awareness, dialogue and action at the local level on climate change and modern slavery – two pressing, interconnected issues highlighted in the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si’.
“By switching to renewable diesel for the entire municipal fleet, the city is providing real solutions to climate change that helps San Francisco reach our ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and create a more sustainable future,” says City Administrator Naomi Kelly.
Switching to renewable diesel will dramatically accelerate the progress San Francisco has made in cleaning its diesel fleet, slashing greenhouse gas emissions from diesel vehicles by more than 60%. Using renewable diesel also reduces the emissions of soot and other air quality pollutants that harm the health of local residents, and which disproportionately hurt San Francisco’s low-income communities because so much of the heavy-duty vehicle traffic occurs in and near those communities.
“The SFFD piloted the use of renewable diesel fuel for our fleet over a period of six months last year,” says Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White. “Our fleet ran cleaner and more efficiently, and we are completely supportive of the Mayor’s call to switch to renewable diesel to improve the environment and create a healthier future for our residents.”
San Francisco started on the path of transitioning away from petroleum diesel and using cleaner forms of diesel fuel a half-dozen years ago by transitioning to a blend of biodiesel. Currently, most of the municipal fleet uses B20, which is 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel.
Although renewable diesel is more expensive to produce at this time, it qualifies for valuable credits under Federal and State programs, which allows renewable diesel to be available at or below the price of conventional petroleum diesel.
Renewable diesel is not the same as biodiesel. Both fuels are produced from numerous bio-feedstock sources, including fats, oils and greases, but the two fuels are produced through different processes. Renewable diesel uses a hydrogenation process, while biodiesel uses an esterification process. According to the California Air Resources Board, the full lifecycle emissions of carbon from renewable diesel produced from sustainable sources are more than 60% lower than either petroleum or B20 biodiesel. Chemically, renewable diesel is indistinguishable from petroleum diesel, and testing has shown it to have engine performance that matches or outperforms both petroleum diesel and biodiesel.
“This is a great example of how Mayor Lee is taking bold steps to curb greenhouse gases, and it shows how our actions at the city level can have huge positive impact, globally and locally,” says Department of the Environment Director Debbie Raphael.