President George W. Bush yesterday gave a speech backing the efforts of the biodiesel industry and attended an ‘07-compliant diesel engine demonstration at Virginia BioDiesel refinery at West Point, VA. The demo used a Peterbilt Model 387 equipped with a Cat C13 Acert engine.
“Our clean diesel rules will reduce air pollution from diesel engines by about 90%, and reduce sulfur content of diesel fuel by more than 95%,” said the President. “Today I saw a diesel-powered truck that can get up to 30% better fuel economy than gasoline-powered vehicles, without the harmful emissions of past diesels. I mean, the fellow got in the truck and cranked it up, and another man got on the ladder, and he put the white handkerchief by the emissions port, and the white handkerchief remained white.
Because of the improved fuel economy diesel offers, Bush added that he would like to see more consumer acceptance of diesel engines in passenger cars, pickups and SUVs. “To help more Americans benefit from a new generation of diesel technology, I have proposed making owners of clean diesel eligible for the same tax credit as owners of hybrid vehicles [of up to $4,000],” Bush continued.
Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, said that the speech will go a long way toward improving public perception of diesel technology, as well as the trucking industry.
“First of all you see a high level of recognition on the progress of diesel and the fact that it is a clean technology,” Schaeffer told Fleet Owner. “For example, with the handkerchief test [the president] has seen first hand that today’s diesel technology is far more advanced…That recognition is important because there has been an effort to label vehicles such as trucks as major sources of pollution.”
The president also promoted biodiesel— a blend of organically-derived fuel with conventional diesel— as a way to reduce America’s dependence of foreign oil. “My administration supports a flexible, cost-effective renewable fuel standard,” Bush said. “Its proposal would require fuel producers to include a certain percentage of ethanol and biodiesel in their fuel.”
“There’s an interest in discussion of using more biodiesel for trucks and buses,” said DTF’s Schaeffer. “Whether that works will be a function of economic desire and opportunity. Collectively as an industry, we’ve looked at biodiesel a little harder because of the opportunities it brings. Also the fact that it helps associate our progress with that of renewables is certainly not a bad thing.”
With manufacturers optimizing low-emissions diesel engine technology for the upcoming federally mandated ultra-low sulfur diesel standard for on-highway vehicles, Schaeffer said it’s too early to tell how biodiesel will work with ’07 and ’10 engines.
“We have to see what the manufacturers have to say as far as recommended fuels," said Schaeffer. "[Engine manufacturers] are not looking at it as a primary fuel in developing the new engines. But I think that biodiesel could offer some benefit— we just have to understand how it works with the new engines.”