Semi trailerEnlarge Photo
California is set to receive a lump sum of funds from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust following its diesel emission scandal.
With $423 million at the state's discretion, groups are lobbying hard to ensure the funds are used to have an immediate and positive impact on the environment and air quality.
One diesel lobbying group believes the best way to combat emissions in the short run is to allocate a large portion of the funds to replace the state's old and dirty diesel-powered semi trucks.
In addition to the $423 million from the Volkswagen mitigation, the state's recently extended carbon cap-and-trade program makes nearly $2 billion available for initiatives to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.
Not only is the Diesel Technology Forum calling for newer, cleaner-burning diesel semi trucks, but also industrial marine and locomotive applications as well.
The group's research suggests replacing major commercial transportation sectors with clean diesel technology would yield the most substantial and immediate benefits, rather than investing in electrification that it says may not provide the same degree of emission reduction for years to come.
Semi trailerEnlarge Photo
The $423 million of Volkswagen mitigration funding, it should be noted, is a separate pool of money from the $2 billion VW will spend over 10 years to provide zero-emission vehicle infrastructure across the country.
Planning for that effort, which will largely consist of electric-car charging stations of various speeds and capacities, is well underway by the group known as Electrify America.
The VW funds discussed by the Diesel Technology Forum are intended to offset the excess emissions created by hundreds of thousands of Volkswagen and Audi diesels that used "defeat device" software to cheat on emission testing.
Now they are being supplemented by the additional pool of cap-and-trade money, which electric-car advocates have suggested should go toward wider and faster deployment of charging infrastructure.
The Forum points out that while California leads the nation in electric-car purchases, it ranks 47th out of all 50 states in adopting the latest in low-emission commercial truck technology.
In California, just 23 percent of the state's trucking fleet is fitted with the most recent and cleanest diesel-emission treatment technology, while the national adoption rate hovers around 30 percent.
EVgo DC fast-charging site in Baker, California
EVgo DC fast-charging site in Baker, CaliforniaEnlarge Photo
Some of California's oldest trucks emit 60 times more emissions than current vehicles, which produce 90 percent fewer emissions.
Retiring and replacing those vehicles, and retrofitting others, would produce immediate reductions in nitrogen oxides, particulates like soot, and other emissions from diesel engines.
According to The Department of Transportation, a $20,000 investment in clean-diesel technology produces the same NOx reduction as a $1 million investment in alternative fuel infrastructure.
Furthermore, the South Coast Air Quality Control estimates NOx emissions could be cut by 86 tons each day if every single semi truck were equipped with clean-diesel technology.
Some cap-and-trade funds seem likely to go toward electric cars, but with 70 percent of California's current semi trucks running on old diesel technology, the opportunity may be ripe for immediate reductions.
The phrase "clean diesel" used by the Diesel Technology Forum, however, may not be the best way to describe the latest emission treatment technology—given the damage done to it by the so-called "clean diesels" sold by Volkswagen.