• The Diesel Technology Forum

Continued investment, innovation in advanced diesel engines sustain clean air, climate progress


March 18 is Rudolf Diesel's birthday and National Biodiesel Day

In comments submitted March 16 to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Hearing—“Ways to Strengthen Research and Development in Innovative Transportation Technologies with a Focus on Solutions that Decrease Emissions, Reduce Our Reliance on Foreign Supply Chains, and Increase Manufacturing in the United States”—the Diesel Technology Forum outlined the success of past investments in research in diesel engine efficiency and emissions that have created jobs, improved air quality and lowered greenhouse gas emissions.


“It is fitting that the committee is holding this hearing on innovative transportation technologies today, just a few days before the 163rd birthday of Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines and the latest generations of advanced diesel technologies and fuels. “Well over a century has passed since Diesel’s invention, and today it is the prime mover of 15 sectors of the global economy. Diesel technology was innovative in its earliest days and it is clear that manufacturers’ relentless course of innovation, investment and continuous improvement has not only paid off, but ensured its role in the future.


“Today diesel engines are delivering substantial benefits to society in the form of efficient and clean power. Thanks to sustained research and investment from leading manufacturers, suppliers and fuel producers, advanced diesel engines have undergone a fundamental transformation in environmental performance while boosting energy efficiency.


“In the commercial trucking sector, the U.S. Department of Energy SuperTruck program, a partnership between manufacturers and government, has resulted in new understanding about combustion and emissions reduction. The SuperTruck program has translated fundamental research into new commercial technology on the road today that enables trucks to use less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gas and other emissions. From coupling with hybrid-electric technology and battery-storage systems, to pushing thermal efficiency boundaries, to advanced waste-heat recovery systems, to utilizing high-quality advanced renewable biodiesel fuels, research has played a key role in ensuring that advanced diesel technology and fuels will contribute to meeting clean air and climate goals for a sustainable future.


“While zero-emissions solutions for some applications are planned for the future, few are available today, and analysts predict that diesel engines are expected to continue to dominate the trucking sector well beyond the 2030 timeframe. Even as manufacturers are working to develop new power options such as battery-storage/electrification and hydrogen, the adoption of these solutions at market scale could be well into the future, according to many analysts. This underscores the importance of continued innovation, investment and progress in advanced diesel engines to sustain progress toward meeting national and international climate and clean air goals.


“The use of advanced renewable biofuels in diesel engines is growing and is an important opportunity that leverages existing vehicle technology and infrastructure while also delivering meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Large investments are being made in the refining sector to boost the supply of advanced biofuels including renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel fuel that, when used in diesel engines, yield substantial greenhouse gas emissions benefits at very low cost. Low-carbon fuel policies in California and those being considered in other regions, are realizing the cost savings and other benefits of using these fuels compared to zero emission vehicle alternatives that require considerable infrastructure investments and new vehicles to fully realize their benefits.”


The diverse nature and significance of the challenge to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions dictates that it is not a one-size fits all problem, but instead one where many solutions will be needed. An effective climate policy is also one that balances near-term strategies for greenhouse gas emissions reductions alongside investments in future zero-emissions solutions. The advanced generation of diesel technology is part of a national climate solution, for many reasons:


Diesel is an Economic Driver: Heavy-duty diesel engines manufactured in the U.S. in 2019 exceeded 900,000 units. Diesel engines and the vehicles and equipment they power are directly responsible for supporting $12 billion in economic activity (Q1 2019) or about 12 percent of all private sector economic activity. Without diesel trucks and equipment, we could not generate the $1.2 billion in economic activity provided by the warehousing and logistics sector. According to research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum, industries that produce diesel technology and use these technologies generate $275 billion in economic activity.


Diesel is a U.S. Manufacturing and Skilled Workforce Success Story: Nearly 1 million heavy-duty diesel engines were manufactured in facilities in 13 states across the U.S. in 2019. It takes a highly skilled workforce to produce these engines and an even larger workforce to keep these engines running. The Department of Labor estimates that more than 265,000 Americans are employed as truck, bus and diesel engine specialists. Diesel mechanics are employed in a growth industry, as the Department of Labor predicts that the industry will expand by 5 percent each year.


New Technology Diesel Engines Deliver Clean Air Benefits Today: According to the latest information, 43 percent of the U.S. commercial truck fleet in operation on our roads today is of the newest generation clean diesel power that achieves near-zero emissions. These new technology diesel engines have eliminated more than 26 million tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) already since 2010. New diesel trucks are so clean that it would take more than 60 new-generation diesel trucks to equal the emissions from one truck sold in 1988.


New Technology Efficient Diesel Engines Are Delivering Major Greenhouse Gas (CO2) Reductions Today: More efficient diesel trucks now on the road since 2010 have already saved 12 billion gallons of fuel and eliminated 126 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions between 2011 and 2018. This is equivalent to taking 26 million cars off the road for a year. The U.S. EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate that the Commercial Vehicle Fuel Economy and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Standards Phase 1 rules saved 270 million tons of CO2 and 530 million barrels of oil between 2014 and 2018, and that the Phase 2 rules will save another 1 billion tons of CO2 and nearly 2 billion barrels of oil between 2021 and 2027. Research commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum confirms that the majority of these significant benefits will be delivered by more efficient diesel trucks. These benefits are enormous, and they will be largely generated by diesel technology, as 80 percent of truck sales by 2030 will still be diesel. These more efficient trucks will have eliminated the same emissions as taking just about every car off U.S. roads for a year.


Use of Advanced Renewable Low-Carbon Biodiesel Fuels Enhances Diesel: More and more fleets are making the switch to advanced biofuels including renewable diesel fuel and biodiesel fuel. These fuels are considered advanced biofuels by the EPA capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent. In California, where the use of these fuels is growing quickly, biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel have provided the greatest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, according to the California Air Resources Board. These significant benefits could not be realized without the diesel engine.

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