Efforts to meet US commitments to the Paris Climate Accord, and President Biden’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, are getting a major boost because of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Significant tax policies and incentive provisions in the IRA step up the US efforts to attack climate change as well as lower greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.
Even with billions of dollars of new investments, incentives, and regulations, the envisioned shift to renewable energy, new transportation equipment, and fuels is an enormous undertaking. It won’t happen overnight due to the sheer size and scope of the challenge. Add to that the lingering global supply chain issues, access to critical minerals for batteries, the impact of rising inflation, as well as recessionary fears and delays seem inevitable.
If we’re serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and time is of the essence, then the solutions that are available now should be more widely deployed immediately. These steps are every bit as important as the benefits expected from fully electric or hydrogen powered trucks at wider scale implementation in the future. That’s in part because once carbon is released to the atmosphere it can’t easily be taken back.
Consider the options for the trucking industry. State policymakers in 10 Northeastern states, are considering options for their own climate change policies to reduce GHG emissions from medium and heavy-duty trucks. (They include Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.) A recent study found that in the next 10 years, compared to a fully electrified fleet, three times more greenhouse gas emissions reductions in their states can be achieved by getting rid of the oldest diesel trucks and replacing them with new near-zero diesel models. Those are more fuel efficient and can run on low-carbon renewable biodiesel fuels. This can be accomplished at just 25% of the cost of full-scale electrification. The considerable benefits of using low-carbon renewable biobased diesel fuels becomes clearer from this analysis. These fuels can be used in all diesel vehicles right now.
Advanced diesel technology is more effective, more affordable, and most importantly more available at this moment. The urgency to implement solutions to reduce greenhouse gases from transportation and address climate change is heard on a daily basis. Transitions to new energy sources still have considerable uncertainties and longer timeframes – a decade or more -- to meaningful implementation. Some solutions will be available sooner than others, and at larger scale than others. Advanced diesel technology, as well as renewable and biodiesel fuels, are key available solutions that can deliver big impacts today.
While electric and hydrogen fuels appear to hold great promise for reducing GHG at large scale in the future, let’s not forget the solutions available now as well as the considerable opportunity we have for using this advanced generation of efficient, clean, diesel power and renewable low-carbon biodiesel fuels.