Transportation & Fuel Source Technology
Clean Diesel Technology Helps Lead the Drive toward 'Energy Independence Day'
As the national discussion to curb climate change and declare an "Energy Independence Day" by July 4 continues, California's leading climate change experts have identified a leading role for diesel engines using renewable diesel fuel as one of the best ways to reduce a vehicle's impact on global warming.
"Diesel engines are the most energy-efficient internal combustion engine technology ever designed. In addition to its dramatic reductions in emissions from new clean diesel technology, the technology has the added benefit of being able to use high-quality renewable diesel blends today," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF
), a suburban Washington, D.C.-based non-profit educational organization dedicated to raising awareness about the environmental progress and economic importance of clean diesel technology. The DTF has offices in Sacramento, Calif., as well.
The California Air Resources Board on June 21 adopted a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) requiring the "carbon content" of the transportation fuel sold in the state to drop 10 percent by 2020. The LCFS was adopted as item No. 1 among a package of "near-term" greenhouse gas reduction measures that will take effect in January 2010.
While the LCFS does not specifically require California refiners to reduce the carbon content of diesel fuel, it does require it of gasoline, and sets up a flexible system for refiners to meet the goals. Comments by CARB board members and staff, prior to adopting the LCFS, made it clear that refiners may turn to renewable diesel fuel as an "offset" or alternative for meeting the 10 percent carbon reduction goal for gasoline.
The CARB board views the LCFS as the top near-term climate change reduction measure because of its potential for being adopted the earliest by industry and consumers. As a proven technology with an existing fueling infrastructure in place, the current heavy-duty diesel fleet in California and an anticipated growing light-duty diesel fleet are seen by CARB, environmental stakeholders and some refiners as near-term markets for renewable diesel fuel - a faster and less costly compliance route than some other alternatives.
Schaeffer noted that new clean diesel passenger cars are 20 to 40 percent more fuel-efficient than comparable gasoline-powered vehicles while meeting the same tailpipe emissions standards. Due to their fuel efficiency, biofuel capability and the fact that renewable diesel fuels don't require new fueling infrastructure, clean diesel vehicles also can play a role in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's stated goal of declaring a national "Energy Independence Day" by this July 4, Schaeffer said.
"Whether or not Congress manages to declare an Energy Independence Day this week, with every new diesel vehicle on the road we are steadily reducing reliance on imported oil and lowering our carbon footprint," Schaeffer said. "Clean diesel technology is integral to the nation's economic health and to efforts to meet clean air objectives and reduce petroleum dependence. Adding a renewable diesel fuel component to that makes the case even better."
The nationwide introduction of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in October 2006 is enabling a new generation of efficient, clean diesel engines and emissions after-treatment technologies that will reduce emissions of particulate matter, or soot, by more than 90 percent, and oxides of nitrogen by about 50 percent.
"Sometimes the government leads the way on important issues and sometimes it doesn't," Schaeffer said. "What is important is that some entity or entities show leadership, and I'm happy to report that the clean diesel industry is doing that right now."
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