EPA on clean air

FO: A lot of fleets are worried that EPA’s main goal, via tighter diesel engine emissions requirements, is to eliminate the diesel engine altogether. What’s your response? Simon: Let me say outright that we see a need for the diesel engines now and in the future—and we support their use. However, that being said, diesel engines in their current form are relatively unhealthy. The negative health effects

FO: A lot of fleets are worried that EPA’s main goal, via tighter diesel engine emissions requirements, is to eliminate the diesel engine altogether. What’s your response?

Simon:

Let me say outright that we see a need for the diesel engines now and in the future—and we support their use. However, that being said, diesel engines in their current form are relatively unhealthy. The negative health effects from visible and nonvisible emissions on both people and the environment concern us. While we want to make sure that diesels continue to be a viable option for fleets, we want to make sure they’re a healthier option, too. FO: How about the technology involved in reducing diesel emissions? A lot of fleets are concerned that such technology won’t be ready by the time new emissions mandates go into effect. Simon: I don’t think the discussion is whether we get there with technology—it’s how we get there. For starters, a fuel tie-in is necessary to reach 2007 levels. The PM requirement will go into full effect in 2007, with the NOx and NMHC requirement phased in between 2007 and 2010. We have the technology to reduce the sulfur levels in diesel. Particulate traps have been around for awhile in Europe; we know how to work with them and it’s certainly a viable technology. NOx absorbers are already in use on stationary diesel engines; now we need to transfer them onto mobile ones. So much of the technology needed to reduce emissions already exists; it’s not science fiction. FO: Do you think the technology will be in place for the 2007 emissions targets? Simon: Yes, very much so. I think the only question left is making sure all of this technology has a durable, useful life similar to what fleets get from their equipment now. That’s the main challenge. Packing all of this technology into a truck will also be a challenge, but it can be done. Engine and aftertreatment technology manufacturers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make it work. We’re confident they’ll succeed. FO: What about the testing procedures EPA will use to make sure trucks will be in emissions compliance in the years ahead? Simon: Mobile testing out on the road, especially on the heavy-duty truck side, will be hard. We’re putting together testing equipment right now to look at how we’ll test emissions while trucks are on the road. In the past, we took the engine out, tested it for a few days, and then put it back in the truck. That’s very inefficient. Using equipment that we can attach to a truck for a day or two is a much more viable method. That’s where we’re headed. FO: A lot of fleets are leery of such testing, fearing it will be too intrusive to their operations. Simon: There are several benefits to mobile testing. One, of course, is to make sure the new standards are met. But it will also mean that for fleets doing the right thing, we’ll be making sure their competitors are meeting the same standard so there will be no advantages gained from operating older engines. FO: What kinds of incentives might be available to fleets in the future to buy cleaner diesels? Simon: First, we’re trying to identify areas and fleets where we can put incentive packages together to help them retrofit older engines. The new standards will fully kick in by 2010, but engines stay on the road for 20 to 25 years, so we will have a lot of older equipment operating for awhile. We’re looking at incentives like establishing mobile credit trading, where cleaner-running fleets can benefit from adopting new technology. Everything is on the table right now. At the local level, for instance, fleets in nonattainment areas might get tax credits for using cleaner fuel and retrofitting their engines. FO: What other areas of the trucking industry are you looking at for emissions reductions? Simon: A big one is idling. We can achieve dramatic emissions reductions by reducing idling, saving owner-operators and fleets a lot of money in the process. We believe we could save the average truck operator $3,500 annually per truck in fuel and maintenance costs by cutting back on idling time. We’re looking at electrical systems at truckstops where trucks could plug in to operate televisions, computers and other onboard appliances. With such technology, we could cut idling-related emissions by 80% to 90%. That’s a huge drop. FO: Do you believe fleets will buy into the logic behind such incentives? Simon: People are coming around to it. There are a lot of benefits here; it’s a win-win situation for us and the trucking community. We would really help the environment by cutting emissions levels. At the same time, fleets could save money. The wasted fuel and increase in engine maintenance associated with idling are added expenses for fleets. To the extent that we can use our authority to come up with incentive ideas, we will. FO: What’s the payoff EPA sees from reducing diesel emissions? Simon: The health issue is a big one, since diesel exhaust has been found to be a likely carcinogen for humans. If you look at just the health benefits from lowering emissions, we will be saving $70 billion in health-related costs. The cost to put all of this emissions reduction technology and clean fuel in place will be about $4 billion. Particulate traps will go a long way to helping us gain those benefits, and the engine manufacturers have noted the health savings as well. Remember, too, that approaching emissions reductions at the national level will alleviate the need for local and state emissions-cutting efforts. Instead of 50 or 100 different emissions-level mandates, there will be just one. Everyone will be on the same playing field.

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