What is Clean Diesel?


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July 29, 2016   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

What happens with diesel come January 20, 2017?

Whether our future as a nation is one that is pro-fossil fuels, or one that proclaims a clean energy future, or some combination of both, diesel itself has transformed to play a leading role in whatever the future looks like.


There is no shortage of banter from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump about energy policy. One is pro-fossil fuels, one talks about a clean energy future. Both want a vibrant growing economy and higher quality of living.  

With such a stark contrast it might seem counterintuitive but as a technology, diesel feels comfortable and fits well in both scenarios. Diesel itself has transformed to near-zero emissions giving it the environmental credentials for any kind of future - one founded in sustainability and clean energy or one more oriented to traditional energy sources, or a blend of both. 

Its inherent 30 percent better energy efficiency is a plus in the climate column. Actually using more diesel technology could reduce petroleum demand, a fact showing up already in government energy forecasts. Invented to run on peanut oil, diesel engines are the most flexible engine platform to use an array of renewable biofuels developed from a variety of sources, including waste products, plant material and even algae. 

As the primary power source behind 15 sectors of the global economy, diesel engines are essential to the economic future, providing the work – the goods and services, the earthmoving, the planting, backup power and more that all businesses, jobs and economies depend on. Incremental advances in fuels or efficiency for diesel played out over tens of millions of engines, vehicles and equipment in the years ahead will ensure the steady progress that the economy needs to prosper and grow even as it considers other fuels and technologies.   

Under a Clinton presidency, the expectation is that the current path of the Obama Administration will be continued and enhanced, meaning an energy and environmental agenda that is centered around combatting climate change. No question that the Clean Power Plan would be a centerpiece of that agenda as would existing measures to increase fuel efficiency in vehicles. Expect even greater incentives for electric vehicles and alternative fuels as policies push harder into more California-like measures. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s climate touch is found in the global initiative to reduce short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon and methane, which would support a firm commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. Also in 2008, she proposed cutting foreign oil imports by two-thirds by 2030.

From the DNC Platform… 

We will transform American transportation by reducing oil consumption through cleaner fuels, vehicle electrification increasing the fuel efficiency of cars, boilers, ships, and trucks. We will make new investments in public transportation and build bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure across our urban and suburban areas. Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.

“Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy. Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals.”

Coming out of Hillary Clinton’s speech last night was a strong message about a clean energy future, in contrast with President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy. Clinton’s views though on energy are probably more complicated, having been on record supporting the positive effects of U.S. natural gas boom on the economy. But "carbon tax" is a term that is being tossed around more and more by her senior advisers these days, and “keep it in the ground” is a familiar anti-fossil fuel energy refrain from environmental advocates closely aligned with the Democratic platform.  

In her role as Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton visited a Diesel Technology Forum event and vehicle display in 2008 near the U.S. Senate in Washington. She was also a consistent champion for the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), a successful bipartisan effort that created and funded an innovative program centered on modernizing and upgrading older diesel engines and equipment through competitive grants and awards.  

The Republican agenda has a decided tilt toward national interests and security over international interests, including a strong favor for the conventional energy sources of coal and fossil fuels.

From the Republican Platform

We are the party of America’s growers, producers, farmers, ranchers, foresters, miners, commercial fishermen, and all those who bring from the earth the crops, minerals, energy, and the bounties of our seas that are the lifeblood of our economy. Their labor and ingenuity, their determination in bad times and love of the land at all times, powers our economy, creates millions of jobs, and feeds billions of people around the world.”

“Together, the people of America’s energy sector provide us with power that is clean, affordable, secure, and abundant. Their work can guarantee the nation’s energy security for centuries to come if, instead of erecting roadblocks, government facilitates the creation of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.”

A recent statement from Donald Trump … “Climate change is not one of our big problems,” suggests that global agreements on climate change like the Paris agreement are up to renegotiation or termination. Trump is a vocal proponent of expanding U.S. energy production and exploration and would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He also has expressed that the “Obama Administration has wasted billions of dollars on green energy programs, and has further indicated cuts would be in store for the EPA.     

The Final Word

Whether our future as a nation is one that is pro-fossil fuels, or one that proclaims a clean energy future, or some combination of both, diesel itself has transformed to play a leading role in whatever the future looks like; one founded in sustainability and clean energy or one more oriented to traditional energy sources, or a blend of both. In the meantime, diesel engines will be at work, making progress possible by doing the things we all rely and depend on; doing it more efficiently and cleanly than ever before.

For more insights and comparisons to the two candidate platforms visit the Council on Foreign Relations.

 


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Key Contact

Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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