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EPA drops the boom

WASHINGTON. D.C. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled the emission rules for 2006. In addition to requiring "near-zero" emission standards for heavy-duty diesel engines, they ...


WASHINGTON. D.C. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has unveiled the emission rules for 2006. In addition to requiring “near-zero” emission standards for heavy-duty diesel engines, they have included a maximum sulphur level for highway-use diesel of 15 parts per million (ppm).

This would take effect beginning in September of 2006. Current diesel sold in Canada generally includes a sulphur content of 300 ppm with a few low-sulphur exceptions.

“Today’s actions will dramatically cut harmful air pollution by up to 95 per cent,” EPA Administrator Carol Browner said when the changes were announced. She added there would be a phase-in period of three years, from 2007 to 2010 so engine manufacturers, “will have the flexibility to meet the new standards.”

The changes to sulphur levels allow for the Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) techniques manufacturers agree will be required to meet the stringent standards of the future. Manufacturers complained current sulphur levels in diesel were poisoning any attempt to try SCR-equipped engines.

“We strongly support EPA’s reduction of diesel fuel sulfur levels, which will enable the aftertreatment technologies that are required to achieve the agency’s challenging new emissions standards,” says John Horne, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Navistar International. “With a target of near zero emissions, International is committed to the significant investment in research and development that will be required to meet these new engine standards.”

According to the EPA, the changes will reduce smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions by 2.6 million tons a year, once in full effect. It also estimates emissions of soot, or particulate matter, will be reduced by nearly 110,000 tons each year.

The EPA calculates that air-pollutants – of which diesel-exhaust is the most harmful thus far identified – contribute to 8,300 premature deaths, 5,500 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 17,600 cases of acute bronchitis in children annually.

There are other costs associated with these changes. The EPA estimates heavy-duty engine-equipped trucks will jump in price by US$3,230 by 2007. As well, it estimates additional operating costs for heavy-duty-engines will add up to $4,600. And the price of super-clean diesel fuel will also be high, says the EPA.

“We estimate that the overall net cost associated with producing and distributing 15 ppm diesel fuel, when those costs are allocated to all gallons of highway diesel fuel, will be approximately five cents per gallon in the long term, or an annual cost of roughly $2.2 billion per year once the program is fully effective starting in 2010,” says Browner. The EPA insists the U.S. government will provide up to $600 million to fund research and development – helping to offset the tremendous costs faced in the near-term by U.S. refiners. n


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