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Californians Seek Even-Handed Approach to Clean Air Spending

January 12, 2018

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The vast majority of Californians want local and state government to blend innovative energy and transportation technologies with sensible policies and fair distribution of clean air funds and carbon cap-and-trade auction proceeds, according to a poll of state voters.

As the state's population pushes past 40 million and state air quality officials grapple with growing climate and air pollution challenges, around 89% of California voters believe a balanced mix of energy and transportation options is needed to achieve cleaner air and lower carbon required by the California Air Resources Board's 2030 and 2050 deadlines. Some 75% of registered voters agree California must balance its investments between proven technologies and those that might benefit the future.

These and other findings are contained in a ground-breaking survey of 2,190 registered California voters commissioned by the Diesel Technology Forum, a national association of diesel vehicle, engine and equipment makers, suppliers and fuel providers. The survey was conducted by Dr. Jessica Broome of JBR Research.

"California is at a crossroads," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. "Substantial clean air challenges are yet to be met, while new aggressive climate and carbon commitments have been adopted, making decisions on fund allocations increasingly important. Our data shows 64% of Californians believe investments in clean transportation need to be balanced by continued use of existing, abundant and low-cost clean technologies and fuels such as clean diesel, at least until alternative energy sources are more available and cost-effective."

Californians see low emission vehicles and reduced fuel consumption as the largest contributors to better air quality. Of those surveyed, 73% view clean diesel technologies as positive contributors to air quality.

California is set to receive approximately $423 million as part of the emissions settlement from the Volkswagen (VW) Environmental Mitigation Trust. This money is earmarked for projects that immediately reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), to mitigate the excessive NOx generated by diesel VW cars operating in California. In addition, California's recently extended carbon cap-and-trade programme makes available nearly $2 billion for carbon reduction projects in the budget year.

"Across all regions, more than three-quarters of Californians clearly want to see this money, already earmarked for air quality mitigation, targeted to areas where it can have the greatest impact on the most people, in the most cost-effective way, targeting the largest sources of NOx emissions in a timely manner," said Schaeffer. "Policymakers should take heed that voters want state funds allocated based on a clear understanding of what all citizens and industries need on a region-by-region level."

The Diesel Technology Forum's data also highlights opinions on the effectiveness of California's existing air quality regulations vary by region. Voters in the Central Valley say conditions have deteriorated over the last 10 years, while South Coast residents say conditions have improved.

California's clean diesel opportunity

Applying VW settlement funds and carbon auction revenue to replace or repower California's largest and oldest trucks, industrial marine and locomotive engines with new technology would yield immediate and significant NOx benefits at the lowest cost per tonne, compared to electrification and other as-yet commercially widespread technologies.

Only around 23% of California's commercial heavy-duty diesel trucking fleet – the largest in the United States at nearly a million vehicles – uses the newest, cleanest diesel technology, according the Diesel Technology Forum’s analysis of IHS Markit data. The national average is 30% adoption.

"It's astounding that the state that leads the nation in electric car registrations ranks 47th out of the 50 U.S. states for adoption of the latest in low-emission commercial truck technology," said Schaeffer. "Investments in future technologies, while important, won't pay significant clean air dividends for decades. In contrast, the newest and cleanest diesel engines, trucks and machines are on dealer lots today. Californians shouldn't have to wait for cleaner air when cleaner trucks are available right now."

Some of the oldest trucks have 60 times the emissions of a new diesel truck. Meanwhile, the newest clean diesel technologies offer 90% fewer emissions than older models and some clean diesel options are 200 times or more cost-effective at reducing NOx than other alternative fuel strategies.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, using the latest emissions model generated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one tonne of NOx emissions may be eliminated by investing, on average, $20,000 in clean diesel technology versus $1 million in alternative fuel infrastructure. Moreover, the South Coast Air Quality Management District estimates that NOx emissions could fall by 70% or 86 tonnes each day if every commercial truck in the region were powered by the latest clean diesel engine.

"State air regulators have said the fastest reductions in NOx emissions in 2035 won't come from power plants or even the electrification of passenger vehicles," said Schaeffer, "but rather from the turnover of older commercial trucks powered with the latest clean diesel engines. It's a proven strategy, as evidenced by the clean truck programmes enacted by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. These programmes moved truckers to newer technology so quickly that port pollution was reduced by 70% in only one year."

Facts about California's commercial vehicle fleet

•             California ranks 47th out of the 50 U.S. states for the adoption of the latest clean diesel technology in commercial vehicles;

•             California's commercial truck fleet – from small delivery trucks to tractor trailer-size commercial trucks – is almost 1.4 million vehicles;

•             Diesel engines power more than 70% of California's trucking fleet; 28% use gasoline and alternative fuels make up just 2%;

•             California's heavy-duty diesel trucking fleet is the largest – and oldest – in the nation, with nearly one million registered vehicles;

•             Roughly 77% of California's diesel commercial vehicles use diesel technologies older than model year 2010;

•             Only about one in four trucks on the road in California (23%) use the newest, cleanest generation of diesel technology and;

•             If another 8% of California's commercial vehicles switched to the latest generation diesel technology – raising adoption to 30%, the national average – Californians would see 52,900 tonnes of NOx reduced; 2,911 tons of fine particles reduced; 370,543 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions reduced; and 36 million gallons of diesel fuel saved.

Source: Diesel Technology Forum analysis of IHS Markit data

For more information visit www.dieselforum.org

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