Recently I talked to Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum about the future of diesel. Allen is my first repeat guest, having joined the program in 2016. Following is an except from our discussion, which you can listen to or download below or in ITunes. (A little warning: I’m afraid the sound quality on side this time is not good with new headphones that didn’t quite work out. Fortunately, Allen sounds perfect and does most of the talking, which is as it should be.)
“And anyone that says that one particular technology is the answer, I think that kind of logic is suspect, and incorrect because there really is not one technology that can get the job done. Looking in Europe in 2014, fossil fuels were really the primary source of electrical power. 42% of all the gross electricity generation in Europe came from burning fossil fuels. So you end up doing this shell game, shifting from tailpipe emissions to some other kinds of emissions, and power plants, and you might be zero at the tailpipe but the source of your power goes back to a power plant that might be every bit or more dirty than the tailpipe was. So I think we have to be very careful as we draw some sweeping conclusions about which strategies and technologies are the absolute winners for the future. Because none of us, I don’t think, can predict that.
I think one of the bad things that’s been done there, and I think how should EU regulators be dealing with NOx and these vehicles, I think first of all they’re working hard to get that alignment between real world testing and certification. And everybody recognizes the nature of that challenge and is trying to do better there. I think that what we have going on, though, is now three years into this situation diesel sales have fallen in Europe from over 50% of the market share, down into the 40s in some countries. And so we would expect that would be happening.
The other thing that is coming to light is that the signals that the government has been sending about these technologies, and which ones might be winners or losers in the minds of the government, they are having the very bad effect, I think, of delaying people’s investment in new technology in general. So what you have are people holding on to older cars that have more emissions, less primitive emissions control systems, if you will, but have more emissions. And those older cars are staying on the road longer, and because people are just not sure. I mean, are they going to ban my technology tomorrow? Should I wait? I really like the economical operation and the longevity of the diesel, and it suits me just fine. Should I wait, or is it going to cost me more to drive to where I need to get to work. What should I do?”