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Old 05-27-2001, 04:32 PM
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Following is a well written article that might be useful for anyone who has to argue against the Sierra Club or other well-intentioned groups that don't really care about the facts concerning Diesel. It ran on the front page of the Sunday NY Times.

May 27, 2001
It Gets 78 Miles a Gallon, but U.S. Snubs Diesel
By EDMUND L. ANDREWS with KEITH BRADSHER
RANKFURT, May 26 — To judge by the mileage it can get, the Audi A2 sounds like just the kind of exotic hybrid-fuel car that President Bush would want to promote with his new energy plan.

The sporty new four-door compact has a top speed of 100 miles an hour. It can travel 78 miles on a single gallon of fuel and emits fewer "greenhouse" gases than almost any other vehicle on the market. Yet the A2 has at its core a technology that generates scorn in the United States: the diesel engine.

The A2 is part of a powerful movement in Western Europe, where gasoline prices are often three times what they are in the United States. Diesel engines burn as much as 30 percent less fuel than gasoline engines of comparable size, and they emit far less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which have been implicated in global warming. After being disparaged for years because they were noisy, smelly, smoke-belching and sluggish, a new generation of much cleaner, more nimble diesel-powered cars is suddenly the height of fashion in Europe.

Diesel engines powered 32.3 percent, or nearly one-third, of all new cars sold in Europe last year, compared with 21.7 percent in 1997. Analysts predict the share will rise to at least 40 percent by 2005.

The contrast with the United States could not be more stark. Fewer than 1 percent of new American cars have diesel engines. And the gap is likely to widen, because American antipollution regulations severely restrict the sale of diesel engines, and American environmental groups are adamantly opposed to relaxing them. European environmentalists, while pressing for tougher standards, are far more accepting of the new diesel technology.

A report commissioned by Congress and being prepared by a panel of the National Academy of Sciences bluntly suggests that the United States may be missing a big chance.

According to a person familiar with the draft report, which is due in July and is being prepared with considerable secrecy, the panel will suggest that "the surest, fastest way to improve the fuel efficiency of the American fleet would be to allow diesels to be a greater part of the landscape." President Bush has said that he is waiting for the report before deciding what, if any, changes to make in American fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles.

But the panel is not expected to call for a change in the environmental rules. The person close to the panel said a shift toward diesel would require "gigantic" investment and "would probably be a foreign- dominated technology."

Harry Pearce, a vice chairman of General Motors until Friday, when he becomes chairman of its Hughes Electronics unit, said the company had no intention of investing in more diesel engines for the American market unless the air pollution rules change. "We're denying ourselves the largest incremental step we could take" to reduce American emissions of global-warming gases, he said.

In Germany, home of Mercedes and Porsche and unlimited speeds on the autobahn, the average new car has improved its fuel efficiency steadily since 1990 and now gets about 32 miles a gallon. The average diesel car gets about 40 miles a gallon. By contrast, the average efficiency of new vehicles in the United States has deteriorated steadily over the period as ever more sport utility vehicles have been sold, and was just 24.5 miles a gallon last year.

By all accounts, diesel technology has made a series of major advances in the last 10 years. The days are long gone when diesel engines spewed black smoke. The newest engines are almost as quiet and smooth as their gasoline rivals, and the telltale metallic knocking sounds have almost disappeared in some cars.

Performance has also improved. The newest generation of pump-injected and "common rail" diesels offer better torque and acceleration than comparable-size gasoline- powered cars.

"The performance is fantastic," said Paul Schröder, a German physical therapist who is trading his old Audi gasoline car for a diesel- powered A2. "My main goal was to save on fuel expenses. But I love to drive, and I wanted a car that would be fun. This car has great acceleration, and it is very agile. It really is a lot of fun."

Mr. Schröder calculates that he will cut his monthly fuel bill by about half, partly because diesel fuel is cheaper and partly because of the new car's extraordinary mileage.

Engines emit carbon dioxide and other gases implicated in global warming in direct proportion to the amount of diesel or gasoline they burn, so vehicles with more efficient diesel engines emit less of these gases. And today's diesel engines produce far fewer tiny soot particles than just seven years ago.

As a result, European environmentalists and government officials have been much more comfortable with diesels than their American counterparts. "A liter of diesel takes one farther and produces fewer greenhouse gases," said Albrecht Schmidt, a top expert on energy issues for Germany's Green Party. "The big problem with diesel is the small particulates, but we think that problem can be solved with new particulate filters."

American environmentalists remain highly critical. "Diesel is the quick and dirty way to increase fuel economy," said Daniel Becker, the director of energy and global warming policy at the Sierra Club. "As long as we have other technologies that are clean, I don't see the point in producing carcinogenic soot."

Differences in attitudes among environmentalists are reflected in the stringency of air pollution rules, with European regulators giving fairly lenient treatment to diesels while American regulators have virtually banned them.

Stringent air pollution rules for diesel engines were issued with virtually no warning by the California Air Resources Board in late 1998, and will take effect in the 2004 model year. The decision was made by the board itself, a group of political appointees, many of whom were about to leave office because their patron, Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, was retiring. The board's technical staff had recommended more lenient standards, but at its final meeting, with no staff analysis, the board adopted stricter rules with little discussion.

The rules were chosen without consideration for the ramifications for global warming; California regulators say that is an international issue outside their purview.

The Environmental Protection Agency traditionally copies California's air pollution rules and did so for the diesel rule in late 1999. The agency's decision, which also takes effect in the 2004 model year, came despite heavy federal subsidies by the Energy Department and the Transportation Department for the production of prototype vehicles with hybrid engines that could run on either diesel fuel or electricity.

General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChyrsler each completed diesel- electric hybrid cars in early 2000 that could get 80 miles to the gallon, but have largely abandoned these projects because of the new air pollution rules. They are now struggling to catch up with Toyota and Honda in the production of hybrid vehicles that use electric power to improve the overall fuel efficiency of vehicles with gasoline engines.

At the same time, compared with Europe, the United States has much dirtier diesel fuel — used by heavy trucks and in a slightly different form, as home heating oil — with far higher levels of sulphur. The American oil industry, much more influential than Europe's oil industry because the United States produces a lot of oil, has lobbied successfully to prevent rules requiring cleaner fuel to take effect until June 2006.

In France, more than half of all new cars sold are powered by diesel engines. "Diesels are trendy," said Thierry Dombreval, senior vice president for marketing at Renault. "The customers for diesels are younger and more affluent, and those are the people who are trendsetters."

BMW and Mercedes are selling diesels in nearly half of their most expensive cars. The waiting period for the diesel version of the Mercedes sport utility vehicle is 12 months, which is three months more than for the gasoline version.

Diesel currently sells at an average of $1.45 a gallon in the United States, compared with $1.70 for gasoline, but diesel prices sometimes rise above gasoline prices in winter when refineries produce heating oil instead of diesel. In most European countries, diesel is at least 20 percent cheaper than gasoline because of tax treatment.

A leading reason for Europe's boom in diesel-powered cars is their tax treatment. Most European countries impose much higher "ecology" taxes on gasoline than diesel fuel, mainly because governments want to avoid damaging commercial truckers.

In the United States, the image of diesel cars has never recovered from the damage done in the early 1980's when automakers, responding to sharp rises in oil prices, raced to introduce such models on a large scale without working out the technical glitches first. "We put some vehicles out there in the marketplace that, independent of the emissions and fuel economy, just didn't work very well," Mr. Pearce of G.M. said.

In Europe, both Ford and G.M., which have been producing cars there for decades, lost significant market share because they failed to recognize the coming popularity of diesels years ago. Today, both companies are racing to catch up.

"I believe it is just a matter of time before the United States comes around to diesel," said David W. Thursfield, chief executive of Ford of Europe. "The technology has moved ahead so much. Fifty miles to the gallon is normal, and you don't even know you are driving a diesel."





Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company | Privacy Information
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Old 05-28-2001, 04:28 AM
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but really?

excellent article. i really like my car, but... do diesel cars emit gases that are more harmful to the environment than gas engines? i am concerned about the environment, but very lazy. the article needed an A2 link also, so here it is.

http://www.audi-a2.com/en/flash/index.html
http://www.geocities.com/a2_audi/unofficial_audi_a2_homepage.html
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Old 05-28-2001, 10:15 AM
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Thanks

Thanks for the article. It is a good read and further exposes the American paranoia with diesel.
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Old 05-28-2001, 12:03 PM
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Good article. Bill, my first impression was that this is an issue that the mainstream press will choose to ignore. I had to double-check the NY Times byline. I checked the one Audi article and it says "49 CZ" by the fuel requirement. Could this mean 49 cetane? The highest I've seen in the USA is 47 for Amoco Premium Diesel in Virginia...

Amazing, how diesel fuel is $1.45, gas is $1.70 and climbing, and nobody is pushing for diesels! Anyway, great article.

[Edited by Robert W. Roe on 05-28-2001 at 12:08 PM]
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Old 02-18-2005, 01:45 PM
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The price of diesel will probably continue to be above other fuels at the station for the forseeable future. This is due to our heavy diesel consumption in Afganistan and Iraq.

The article was great.
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Old 02-18-2005, 01:46 PM
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You think I would check my dates on my searches and post to a current thread......

Idiot!!!!
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Old 02-18-2005, 01:52 PM
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The tree huggers never let the facts get in the way of a misguided protest before.
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Old 02-18-2005, 03:18 PM
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Great article. Two Points:

1. The author seems to be somehow equating Repulicans (references to Bush and Wilson)with the lack of interest and/or outlawing of diesels in the US. He apparently doesn't know the vast majority (99%) of "environmentalists" responsible for bad mouthing diesel are not Republicans.

2. Reagrding mbfan's post - I assume (haven't done any resaech) and hope, we are using all of Iraq's and Kuwait's oil (diesel) for our equipment over there seeings how we're sucking up all the other expenses. But wait, someone would then say we are stealing their oil?!?!
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