"Dirty" Diesel Fuel Targeted in DC Sustainability Proposal - Sway Control
Proposed Act Targets Fuel Rather Than Quantitative Targets
Ah, the infinite wisdom of politicians. It seems it's the gift that keeps on giving. Often motivated more by public perception and reelection prospects that by quantitative data and scientific fact, public officials identify an issue or theme that has broad public perception of one form or another (regardless of whether that perception is grounded in fact) and go around on their stump campaigns extolling the virtues and wisdom of their plan. The latest example of this is the Sustainable DC Omnibus Act of 2013. Putting my libertarian leanings aside, the very title of this act reeks of government overreach and Orwellian levels of bureaucratic micromanagement of citizens and businesses.
Sure, we all want cleaner air and water and urban green spaces in which to gather and for children to play, but when specific technologies are targeted for elimination, rather than quantitative pollution reduction targets, I throw in the penalty flag. In section 211, lines 4-6, the Act states, "Beginning January 1, 2018, the Mayor, or his designee, shall not register any motor vehicle for operation within the District, which operates exclusively on the combustion of petroleum diesel fuel."
First of all, the holes in that broad language are big enough to drive a proverbial 18-wheeler through. What is the definition of "petroleum diesel fuel"? The majority of biodiesel blends are B20, a proven, stable, and storable mix that has shown itself to be the most effective balance in reducing emissions, and avoiding many of the issues with higher concentrations of biodiesel, such as algae blooms, and sensitivity to moisture and temperature variations. Since the fuel is still 80 percent "petroleum diesel fuel," will it be banned? Diesel fuel can be derived from a number of different sources and feedstocks, some of them "petroleum" and others from bio-waste, natural gas, and even coal. Even the very definition of diesel engines themselves is changing, with Hyundai and Mazda developing completely sparkless gasoline engines.
The specific targeting of diesel engines in particular seems unfair when diesel technology has made huge strides in cleanliness and environmental friendliness over the last 15 years and, combined with technologies like selective reduction catalysts, have dropped NOx and particulate levels to below those of current gasoline direct-injection engines in some cases. The introduction of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel has also been a major contributor to the reduction of diesel pollution.
A more sensible proposal would be for specific, quantifiable reductions in CO2, NOx, and particulate matter, and leaving it up to the businesses and residents of the city to decide how to best meet those targets, whether through electrification, alternative fuels, or other means. Singling out and picking on a specific technology and fuel seems unfair when powertrain and propulsion technologies are constantly evolving and improving.