By Ezra Finkin
The US is making more homegrown fuels that are putting us on the path to energy independence and a more sustainable future. Growing energy abundance also allows US refiners to send more clean fuel to markets overseas that help unlock a global green future. Access to cleaner diesel fuels will play a critical role in helping to cool a warming planet.
DIESEL DOES IT
When it comes to moving the economy, nothing gets big things done like diesel technology. Diesel fuel’s unmatched energy density, along with the efficiency, power, performance, and durability of the diesel engine, help explain why trucks, trains, marine vessels, and other heavy-duty applications that move freight are powered by diesel. The latest generation of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuels (ULSD) have been available in the US since 2007 and is a necessary condition to allow for the introduction of near-zero emission diesel technologies.
Thanks to newfound sources of energy, including petroleum and advanced renewable fuel production capacity like biodiesel, the US is well on its way to become energy independent. The US Energy Information Agency reports that the capacity of US refiners to meet fuel demand at home reached a new high—almost 19 million barrels of crude oil per day. Over the last 10 years, petroleum production has more than doubled, while net imports has decreased by 35%. The capacity for biodiesel production has also expanded by almost 20 percent since 2017.
When it comes to diesel fuel, not only are US refiners capable of turning to newfound sources of energy to meet demand for clean diesel fuel at home, but are also helping to meet the demand overseas. US refiners exported over 34 million barrels of ULSD in April 2019, making clean diesel fuel the number one finished petroleum product export. Exports of ULSD have more than tripled from a decade ago.
The benefits of access to cleaner diesel fuel are enormous. Here in the US, clean diesel fuel was required for the fleet of trucks and buses beginning in 2007. Since then, roughly half of the fleet of trucks and buses come with technology that reduce emissions of fine particles to near-zero levels. This results in the elimination of 1.5 million tons of fine particles, which is equivalent to taking all cars in the US off the road for 13 years.
Global access to clean diesel fuel is growing, and US refiners are playing a big part. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, 81% of all diesel fuel sold by 2021 is anticipated to meet a clean diesel fuel standard. Much like in the US, access to clean diesel fuel will help grow the market for near-zero emissions diesel trucks and buses. By 2021, half of all new trucks purchased globally will come with diesel technologies to reduce fine particle emissions to near-zero levels.
Reducing fine particles from diesel sources globally is a necessary strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Fine particle emissions represent a component of black carbon—a potent yet short lived greenhouse gas. Black carbon emissions rise in the atmosphere and are deposited in polar ice where they trap solar radiation and contribute to melt polar ice. While there are many sources of black carbon emissions, including forest fires, controlling diesel sources of black carbon emissions is relatively easy. As more of these near-zero emissions diesel trucks enter service, thanks to growing access to clean diesel fuel, their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will be a cost-effective and critical strategy to help cool a warming planet.
Expanding availability of clean diesel fuel is a necessary condition to help reduce emissions globally and one that US refiners are helping to make happen.
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About the author
Ezra Finkin has served with the Diesel Technology Forum since July 2012. As the policy and outreach director, Mr. Finkin works to educate policy makers with state, local, and federal governments as well as elected leaders and NGOs about the importance of diesel technology and the clean air and economic benefits of continuing investments in emission reduction technologies. Previously, Mr. Finkin served as a policy and industry affairs representative for several trade associations representing retailers, manufacturers, and the ocean transportation and goods movement industries. Mr. Finkin worked with many industry groups to develop environmental programs at blue water ports to improve air quality from many maritime operations. Mr. Finkin holds a B.A. from Kenyon College and an M.A. from the School for Advanced International Studies (Johns Hopkins University).