California’s relationship with extreme weather has been on full display this past year. As the state envisions a future of 100% fully electrified and renewable energy economy, it cannot escape the demands and realities of the moment. The last year’s tumultuous weather extremes have demonstrated plainly the undeniable importance of diesel engines and equipment to Californian’s overall safety and security, not to mention the critical importance of petroleum and renewable diesel fuels.
Weather extremes and natural disasters have hit one after another. Devastating drought fueled heightened wildfire risk, resulting in planned safety power shutoffs of the grid. That left many Californians relying on emergency backup diesel generators, fueled by renewable fuels, to stay powered up. CalFire’s efforts to fight the wildfires put on a grand display of diesel equipment including bulldozers, track-type tractors, as well as a myriad of fire engines, tankers, and pumper trucks. The crews and their equipment worked 24/7 to fight the flames.
Now just a few months into 2023, intense coastal storms unleashed atmospheric rivers in Southern California driving record rainfall, downing power lines, and shutting down roadways. It was diesel powered construction equipment that was called into action to clear the mudslides. And heavy mobile cranes that lifted downed trees and structures. CalTrans and local departments of transportation called into action diesel powered wheel loaders and heavy-haul trucks to help remove boulders and clear mudslides from coastal highways.
Unprecedented snow accumulation of more than nine feet now covers parts of the Sierra and San Bernadino mountains. Media reports spotlight the dangerous snow conditions, as well as the response and rescue efforts in exacting detail. Reports of fires fueled by broken natural gas pipelines are surfacing. Heavy diesel-powered equipment including enormous road graders, wheeled loaders, and plow trucks are being used around the clock to help move the mountains of snow so first responders, and vital supplies, can get through.
In these extreme conditions, human nature takes over. Homeowners aren’t judging or demanding specific technology or fuels in these moments, they just expect first responders and government officials to help. And for that, they turn to the technologies and fuels they trust and need to protect public health and safety.
They can’t wait for something to be ready in just 30 minutes once it is charged up, or until a more capable piece of equipment arrives. Or for a mythical option that is not available to be created. In these crisis moments, it’s about helping restore safety. What can get the job done? There will be plenty of time to debate the merits of different fuels and technologies later. In this and many other moments, there are plenty of Californians thankful for diesel powered vehicles, machines, and equipment, whether they realize it or not.