Airborne particulate matter can really do a number on us humans, particularly with regard to our cardiovascular systems. It seems reasonable for air pollution, then, to be a major concern when calculating the environmental and health costs of the way we do business. Diesel-powered transport has come under particularly scrutiny and particulate matter from diesel exhaust has been widely blamed for diseases such as lung cancer in humans. Perhaps, though, commercial diesel has gotten too tough of a rap, as a new paper from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (which includes nations outside of Europe, including the US) suggests.

Titled Diesel Engines Exhausts: Myths and Realities, the UN paper finds that most particulate matter emissions in Europe (83 percent), as well as in the US and Canada (97 percent), come not from diesel transport, but from other economic sectors. This is not to say that the UNECE suggests that reducing harmful emissions from diesel engines shouldn't be a priority. It calls for being more aggressive and targeted in that respect, but points out a need for increased focus on the worst offenders, the largest of those being "the commercial, institutional and household sector." It also notes the economic importance of diesel engines, stating that "it is not feasible to replace and eliminate them at this stage."

"There is no better example than diesel as a technology and as an industry that has undergone a complete transformation in so little time" – Allen Schaeffer

The UNECE also looks to set the record straight about diesel technology, even using it as an illustration of what has been done correctly. The paper affirms the reduction of air pollutants from cleaner diesel tech. Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum Allen Schaeffer extrapolates upon this notion: "There is no better example than diesel as a technology and as an industry that has undergone a complete transformation in so little time that is enhancing our environment and quality of life around the globe." Schaeffer sees diesel technology and global emissions standards as particularly important for developing countries.

For the time being, diesel is here to stay, and as long as it is, we can expect there to be problems associated with it. For the UNECE and folks like Allen Schaeffer, that news isn't as bad as some have thought, particularly with more dangerous options available. And as long as we're working toward a healthier planet, the occasional reality check can help us prioritize our efforts to make the largest positive impact. Read on for more from the Diesel Technology Forum in the press release below.
Show full PR text
New United Nations Paper Finds Role of Diesel In Economic Development Large . . . And Contribution of Road Vehicles to Particulate Matter To Be Small & Declining in Europe & U.S.

Washington, D.C. – A new paper issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) concluded that diesel road vehicles were the cause of only a small percentage of particulate matter – PM 2.5 and PM10 - in Europe and the United States compared to economic sectors like the commercial, institutional and household sectors.

"From the data and facts mentioned above, we conclude with a high degree of reliability that it is misleading to claim that people's exposure to diesel engines of road motor vehicles is the cause of increased risk of lung cancer," UNECO concluded in the new paper entitled "Diesel Engine Exhausts: Myths and Realities".

To read the entire UNECE paper go to: http://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/trans/main/wp5/publications/Diesel_Engines_Exhausts_Myths_and_Realities_2014.pdf

"Eighty three percent of particulate matters emissions in European Union countries (EEA, 2012a) and 97 percent in the United States of America (EPA 2013) and Canada is generated by other economic sectors, mainly the commercial, institutional and household sector.

"Therefore, the claim that emissions from diesel engine exhausts from road transport are the main cause of lung cancer in humans needs to be seriously challenged. It does not mean however, that measures to improve the environmental performance of the transport sector can stop. On the contrary, they must continue and in an aggressively well targeted way," the UNECE paper stated. (Page 41, 121)

UNECE Includes 56 Nations in Europe & North America

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) is one of five regional commissions of the United Nations. UNECE's (http://www.unece.org/#) major aim is to promote pan-European economic integration. To do so, it brings together 56 countries located in the European Union, non-EU Western and Eastern Europe, South-East Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and North America.

The UNECE paper also states:

- "The transport sector is by far not the most significant source of PM emissions, nonetheless up till now it has been the most rigorous in introducing measures to address the issue." (Page 42, 125e)

- "Thus to improve the quality of air around us more attention must be given to the primary PM emitters." (Page 42, 123)

- "Diesel engines are currently at the heart of economic growth and off all economic activity and, therefore, it is not feasible to replace and eliminate them at this stage." (Page 42, 125b)

UNECE Paper Highlights Diesel's Importance to Global Economy & Corrects Misconceptions About Diesel

"Diesel engines are the workhorse of the global economy, contributing to improved quality of life, food production, mobility and public safety," said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum (http://www.dieselforum.org/). "This UNECE paper highlights the positive trends in reducing emissions from new clean diesel technology as well as the misperceptions about the overall role of diesel engines in air pollution.

"The development of new clean diesel technology for passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, construction and farm engines have reduced particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions by more than 90 percent in the past two decades. There is no better example than diesel as a technology and as an industry that has undergone a complete transformation in so little time that is enhancing our environment and quality of life around the globe.

"The UNECE paper provides an important perspective often overlooked in the environmental debate - that diesel vehicle engines have dramatically improved their emissions and are not a significant cause of PM emissions in developed countries. It also highlights the importance of diesel technology for developing countries and how to improve air quality through harmonized global fuel and emissions standards," Schaeffer said.

Second Study Finds "Cars & trucks, particularly diesel vehicles, are thought to be the main vehicular pollution sources. This needs re-thinking . . ."

The new UNECE report has similar findings to a separate study published in the journal Nature Communications on May 13, 2014 entitled "Two-stroke scooters are a dominant source of air pollution in many cities". This second report was supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO), the Swiss National Science Foundation, the EU commission, the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the French Environment and Energy Management Agency.

The study found that in many Asian and European communities: "Cars and trucks, particularly diesel vehicles, are thought to be the main vehicular pollution sources. This needs re-thinking, as we show that elevated particulate matter levels can be a consequence of 'asymmetric pollution' from two-stroke scooters, vehicles that constitute a small fraction of the fleet, but can dominate urban vehicular pollution through organic aerosol and aromatic emission factors up to thousands of times higher than from other vehicle classes."

To see a summary of the Nature Communications study go to:

http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140513/ncomms4749/full/ncomms4749.html


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 26 Comments
      porosavuporo
      • 9 Months Ago
      So, where are the hydrogen fuel cells here ? Trucks are expensive enough so that cost difference should not be a big issue, refueling infrastructure should not be an issue either as fleets should be able to afford them. Motors and powertrains should not be an issue as trains have had series-hybrid diesel generators in them forever, just toss out the generator and replace with a fuel cell and tanks, right ? Whats the excuse this time ?
        Joeviocoe
        • 9 Months Ago
        @porosavuporo
        Whatever you think, "should not be an issue"... it is still much more expensive than remaining in the status quo. H2 stations still cost millions and tens of thousands annually. And even then, not likely to save much on fuel costs.
      Dave
      • 9 Months Ago
      "diesel trucks might not be worst emission offenders " And Pol Pot might not be the worst dictator.
        Ele Truk
        • 9 Months Ago
        @Dave
        Cargo ships are the worst emission offenders, by a long shot. http://www.industrytap.com/worlds-15-biggest-ships-create-more-pollution-than-all-the-cars-in-the-world/8182
      psarquis
      • 9 Months Ago
      The easy answer here is more clean diesel passenger cars and trucks. DEF cleans up diesel exhaust to the same level, or better, than gasoline vehicles and the added mpg more than makes up for the additional cost. The USA is behind the curve on diesels. Here's a list of countries that levy a tax penalty on passenger cars for carbon emissions/fuel consumption: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The other thing that each of those countries has in common is that more than 50% of all passenger cars sold in them are diesels. What's most ironic is that diesels drive better than gasoline cars in 99% of driving scenarios. Americans just don't give them a chance because the engines run louder, but that's changing and I hope to see more of them on the road. I'm happy to see this article put to rest some of the bad rap.
      EVnerdGene
      • 9 Months Ago
      Even with the low-sulphur DIEsel, even the newest trucks still have visible particulates coming out of their exhaust. Especially every time they accelerate. Even with DPF (DIEsel Particulate Filters) Even with EGR Even with pig-piss injection (urea) Even with multiple catalysts. Even while not regen-ing (squirt extra fuel directly into the filter and ignite to clean) - err no one should notice if you're going fast enough - right ? WHO claims it is a carcinogen.
        wxman
        • 9 Months Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        @Gene, WHO claims ALL particles are carcinogenic, including the tiny particles that are too small to be visible coming from the tailpipe of your gasser.
          Joeviocoe
          • 9 Months Ago
          @wxman
          --"WHO specifically said DIEsel, not gasoline." Because we've known for decades that Aromatics such as ethyl benzene are carcinogenic... which is an important component of gasoline.
          EVnerdGene
          • 9 Months Ago
          @wxman
          WHO specifically said DIEsel, not gasoline. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/health/diesel-fumes-cause-lung-cancer-who-says.html?_r=0
        EVnerdGene
        • 9 Months Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        You guys are using gasoline as a scapegoat for DIEsel. I'm not defending gasoline. The subject of the article is DIEsel. I recognize both DIEsel and gasoline are health hazards. However, DIEsel is much worse. I also recognize that we're between a rock and a hard spot in our need to use DIEsel trucks and trains to move food and chinese crap to us for consumption. Trucks and trains move our economy. However; every time I see an urban cowboy fill an intersection with a DIEsel plumb, I wonder why the F we allow such nonsense. Leave DIEsel to where we really need it (for now); and use the cleanest transportation fuels as possible for commuting and fun.
          DarylMc
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          I can almost imagine, oh no it's that EVnerdGene again. But seriously it's a real shame if the people responsible for policing that take no interest. Surely the laws cant be that lax.
          EVnerdGene
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          Whoa Joe, Since it is your conjecture, it is un-doubtable true.
          EVnerdGene
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          "take no interest." That's the best of the best of California state employees you're talkin' about. DMV, MediCAL*, VA, , , , ad nauseum http://www.naturalnews.com/045271_EPA_national_security_pornography.html (better than Hollywood fiction) search term "EPA porn" *I remember reading a story where a dead body sat in a hallway for two days at a Fed/State funded hospital in Harbor City, CA. Nobody noticed.
          DarylMc
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          I can almost imagine, oh no it's that EVnerdGene again. But seriously it's a real shame if the people responsible for policing that take no interest. Surely the laws cant be that lax.
          DarylMc
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          I can almost imagine, oh no it's that EVnerdGene again. But seriously it's a real shame if the people responsible for policing that take no interest. Surely the laws cant be that lax.
          Joeviocoe
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          The point of the article, is that the notion of " diesel is much worse " is antiquated and now wrong. They've become on par with gasoline in many ways.
          EVnerdGene
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          Electric trains. We're way behind compared to Europe and Japan; but we also have great distances that they don't have. Whenever possible, like commuter lines, should definitely be electric. NG - we're blessed with it. However, even though some trucks are already using it; we again have the problem of great distances again (huge on-board volumes of NG required). 1-800-CutSmog in SoCal. I called it so many times, the operators probably rolled their eyes when they saw my number pop up. 1. "Sorry sir, no matter how much that DIEsel filled the intersection with blue smoke, we do not take complaints about DIEsels." (if they could explain it, here's what they'd say; "sorry, that is a maintenance issue, not an emissions issue. And OBTW no emissions testing for DIEsels, so their visible pollution is fine with us.") 2. Gasser ? "Sir is it blue smoke or hazy smoke? If it is blue smoke* then we can't take the report." *blue - piston rings or valve guides shot - again a maintenance issue "No mam, the exhaust smells like raw gasoline being spewed out of the exhaust." "OK sir, we'll take that information."*** ***Then we find out this gross polluter gets a pass because the owner has already spent $500 trying to fix it. So I guess if you are poor, you have a right to pollute the highways - according to the California Constitution ??? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I propose we move all exhaust pipes to the front bumper so drivers will be a little more concerned with what THEIR vehicle is doing. You'd think that would help, but I also am amazed to see some Rube sitting at a convenience store with this DIEsel idling the entire time, while Bubba runs in to get a six-pack, cigs, and a lotto ticket.
          DarylMc
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          Hi EVnerdGene Don't start on consumerism or we will never get anywhere:) You are correct. We need diesel trucks to move goods around. They may not be perfect but diesel exhausts are cleaner than they have ever been. Natural gas is also an option which should be investigated. My cities bus fleet runs around powered by the stuff so I know it is possible. Trains can run on electricity so there is improvements to be made there too. Motor vehicle accidents kill over a million people worldwide a year so there is risks to everything we do. I don't lose too much sleep over concern about diesel particulates but I'm sure wherever you are in the western world there is some government department trying to uphold some standards. Reporting a smokey vehicle is probably a good way to bring some improvements. The owner may often think he cant afford or doesn't know how to fix it but I am sure when the vehicle is threatened to be taken off the road he will find a way. Regards Daryl
          EVnerdGene
          • 9 Months Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          "take no interest." That's the best of the best of California state employees you're talkin' about. DMV, MediCAL*, VA, , , , ad nauseum http://www.naturalnews.com/045271_EPA_national_security_pornography.html (better than Hollywood fiction) search term "EPA porn" *I remember reading a story where a dead body sat in a hallway for two days at a Fed/State funded hospital in Harbor City, CA.
        • 9 Months Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        The UNECE report addresses the WHO claim and while it does not dismiss the WHO designation - they're both UN agencies - UNECE clearly notes that WHO based its decision largely on a questionable NCI study of 50 year old diesel equipment.
      William
      • 9 Months Ago
      I could care less about what the UN says, but if one is interested in a newer generation of efficiency in large trucks they should look at the start-up ePower Engines for some real advances. The Axion Power Pbc battery is essential to its capabilities.
      JakeY
      • 9 Months Ago
      The article missed the most important point: that 2-stroke scooters are the largest polluters in cities (although in the US we don't really have 2-stroke scooters). And that does point to another problem, which is that the proximity of the emissions to the human population. If you count all the emissions from all emission sources, then diesel cars/trucks might not be a huge number, but if you weigh it by proximity to humans, that may be different. This is kind of different than GHG emissions (which are looked at globally instead of locally).
      • 9 Months Ago
      Replace dirty diesel with DME-low carbon, ultra-low emission fuel. DME has been used for decades in the personal care industry (as a benign aerosol propellant), and is now increasingly being exploited for use as a clean burning alternative to LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), diesel and gasoline. http://www.aboutdme.org/index.asp?sid=1 http://www.aboutdme.org/aboutdme/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000002506/DME_Fact_Sheet_Transportation_Fuel.pdf
      goodoldgorr
      • 9 Months Ago
      Please convert these monstruous diesel engine to natural gas engines, it will help pollution and the cost of natural gas is lower and it is sourced from north-America. This article probably come from big oil. This website have been corrupted by big oil money and chris m.
        Ele Truk
        • 9 Months Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        You are half right. But natural gas comes from big oil, not in competition with them.
      • 9 Months Ago
      Replace dirty diesel with DME-low carbon, ultra-low emission fuel. DME has been used for decades in the personal care industry (as a benign aerosol propellant), and is now increasingly being exploited for use as a clean burning alternative to LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), diesel and gasoline. http://www.aboutdme.org/index.asp?sid=1
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