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August 10, 2021   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Infrastructure: Pass It and We Will Build It; Efficiently, Cleanly, and Equitably

When it comes to building things, diesel power is at the forefront, powering the majority of infrastructure-building construction machines and equipment.

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when it comes to building things, diesel power is at the forefront, powering the majority of infrastructure-building construction machines and equipment

This just might be the year. As Senate action now appears imminent, the potential of a $550 billion infrastructure investment for the nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and ports, water systems and communications systems feels closer than ever to reality.  

It will be a big deal when (if) it happens because infrastructure underpins everything in America. It facilitates our mobility, ensures our connectivity, and enables a healthy and productive public with access to safe drinking water and wastewater disposal. 

Building the next generation of infrastructure, particularly at the scale envisioned, is a tall order but ultimately one that boils down to people using tools and machinery to build things. And when it comes to building things, diesel power is at the forefront, powering the majority of infrastructure-building construction machines and equipment . Whether it’s digging, trenching, lifting, hauling, grading, paving, constructing, handling, compacting or other activity, diesel’s unique combination of efficiency, power, performance, durability and reliability, and now near-zero emissions, ensures its place in this sector for decades to come. 

Diesel engines power the majority of the most heavily utilized pieces of equipment found on job sites across the country, including those used in building roads and bridges and those used to build renewable electric power generation projects like solar or wind; diesel is the mainstay of this industry. According to U.S. EPA, a typical 200 horsepower excavator found on jobsites big and small that is a fourth generation (“Tier 4”) diesel technology achieves near-zero emissions and can eliminate over one ton of smog forming compounds when replacing an older generation of equipment without modern emissions controls. One crane operator in metropolitan New York City, replaced several 1970s vintage engines with new MTU diesel engines to save the operators over $100,000 in fuel costs each year. 

Beyond engine replacements, industry estimates that smart solutions like connected jobsites and telematics can boost the work efficiency and reduce diesel fuel consumption by 40 percent, translating into significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions and climate benefits. Hybrid energy storage systems are now incorporated into a growing number of new off-road machines and equipment like wheel loaders and excavators, where they reduce fuel consumption and emissions without sacrificing power and durability. Caterpillar integrated hybrid systems into one of its most used excavators to generate real world fuel savings. The equipment used to build rail lines for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District reduced fuel use by 30 percent helping to contribute to important project sustainability goals.

Autonomous technology is available in some construction machine types, boosting worksite safety and productivity, particularly in hazardous environments. Volvo construction equipment has integrated autonomy into some of its most used equipment types to reduce emissions by over 40 percent. Precision use of the equipment also places worker away from dangerous locations and boosts worksite safety.

Beyond the innovations in new technology advanced diesel machines and equipment, fuel switching is an easy strategy to reduce local emissions and the carbon footprint of equipment operations. Diesel engines old and new are capable of operating on renewable diesel fuel and blends of biodiesel to deliver big and cost-effective emissions reductions. For example, the City of Oakland, CA made the switch to exclusively use renewable diesel fuel in the city’s fleet of heavy-duty vehicles and equipment. This fuel that can be used as a drop-in replacement to petroleum diesel, reduces emissions by upwards of 80 percent compared to petroleum diesel. City managers estimate that the switch to renewable diesel fuel has displaced over 250,000 gallons of petroleum diesel fuel and eliminated 1,500 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.


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