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April 20, 2020   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Diesel Technology in the Circular Economy

How the diesel industry, and the products developed by leading manufacturers, are vital to protect our health, our planet and sustain economic prosperity.

There is a lot going on across the globe these days. As we all try to stay safe and healthy, we should not forget the health of the planet as this week marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The central tenet of the annual event is to take notice of the many ways we can all make changes, large and small, to promote a sound environment. One of the mantras that help us focus on these changes is “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” and the many products and innovations developed by the leaders in diesel technology take this into account every minute of the day. We will walk you through how the diesel industry, and the products developed by leading manufacturers, are vital to protect our health, our planet and sustain economic prosperity.


Diesel engines are known for their efficiency and super fuel efficiency helping to reduce the consumption of finite energy resources. Diesel is the technology of work powering our nation’s commercial trucking fleet and even larger applications like marine vessels, locomotives and stationary industrial power units. The latest innovations help make the fuel sipping properties of diesel technology even more fuel efficient. 

One of the most visible applications of diesel technology to our everyday lives are large over-the road trucks. Replacing a single older generation Class 8 truck with a more fuel efficient model sitting on a dealer lot right now, can save 960 gallons of fuel year translating into almost 10 tons of greenhouse gas emissions eliminated. The truck of the near future will be even more fuel efficient and the fleet of these much more efficient trucks are projected to reduce the consumption of 130 billion gallons of fuel between 2010 and 2030. These benefits are similar to taking all cars and pickup trucks off the road for a year.

Diesel is a technology of continual improvement and adaptation. Leaders in diesel technology have incorporated hybrid technology along with advanced fuel efficient engines to deliver big benefits to very big applications, like marine vessels. A local marine vessel operator on the Great Lakes replaced four older vessels with new models that incorporate near-zero emissions diesel engines along with hybrid drive technology to save about 34,000 gallons of fuel each year.   

It is probably a safe bet that many of us are not in the market for a new Class 8 truck or tug boat, we most likely own or lease a car and that vehicle is more than likely a pickup truck or SUV. Today, there are quite a few diesel options in these best selling vehicle types and when choosing a diesel, you can reduce fuel use. A typical full-size diesel pickup can save about 200 gallons of fuel per year compared to a comparable gasoline model. If all full-size pickups sold in the U.S. were diesel, we could reduce the consumption of about 500 million gallons of fuel.


While the latest versions of these engines are among the most advanced, many of their parts have been remanufactured  of reused from older units that may have outlived their useful life. Why forge tons and tons of new steel when existing units can be remanufactured from older models? Remanufacturing older engines also keeps these products out of landfills and that is good news for the health of the planet. Even better, it is possible to take these much older engines and remanufacture the technology to meet near-zero requirements while delivering fuel savings and performance benefits. Large engines that power large applications, like locomotives and marine vessels, are in service for many decades. A typical marine workboat is in service for 50 years or more. Replacing a 50 year old engine along with its controls with newly remanufactured technology delivers efficiency and performance.   


One of the benefits of diesel technology is its ability to operate on a variety of advanced biofuels like biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel. These fuels are recycled from waste animal fats and vegetable oils and are capable up reducing GHG emissions up to 80 to 85 percent. As long as we grow soybeans and enjoy hamburgers, we will be able to recycle waste products to deliver very low carbon fuels. Diesel engines are able to operate on blends of biodiesel and can run on 100 percent renewable diesel fuel. The use of these fuels does not require expensive investments in refueling or recharging infrastructure or the purchase of new vehicles, equipment or engines.

Across the U.S., 2.8 billion gallons of biodiesel and renewable diesel fuel were sold in 2019 according to the National Biodiesel Board. One of the leading states for the consumption of these fuels is California. According to data published by the California Air Resources Board, the switch from petroleum to renewable diesel fuel and blends of biodiesel have contributed the most to the state’s greenhouse gas reduction from transportation sources beating electrification of cars, buses and trucks by almost 4 to one!   

While we are all working on staying healthy, let us not forget about the health of the plant too during this Earth Day.  Hopefully soon, we will all get back to work and economies across the globe will begin to recover. Diesel technology will be there helping to get us back on track and sustaining a healthy planet.



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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy

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