Expectation of Summer Gas Prices Highlights Need for Increased Use of Fuel-Efficient Diesel Technology

WASHINGTON — April 7th’s announcement by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) that the U.S. will experience historic levels of petroleum demand this summer, pushing gas prices to new record highs, will only increase Americans’ growing interest in fuel-efficient technologies. A new generation of high-performance, fuel-efficient diesel vehicles are poised to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption and save consumers money, according to the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF).

“As Congress continues discussions over a national energy policy, lawmakers must recognize the vital role that clean diesel technology can play in meeting our nation’s energy and environmental goals,” emphasized Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “They should be offering consumers incentives toward the purchase of clean diesel vehicles as they do with other conservation technologies.”

Diesel engines can increase fuel efficiency by 20 to 40 percent over comparable gas engines, especially in popular sport-utility vehicles and light-trucks, which now make up over half of all new sales. Diesel’s inherent efficiency helps reduce dependence on foreign oil. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a 30 percent market penetration of diesel vehicles by 2020 would reduce U.S. net crude oil consumption by 350,000 barrels per day. In addition, diesels burn less fuel, so they emit lower levels of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — compared to gasoline.

There is growing evidence that American drivers are already turning to diesel-powered vehicles as a high-performance and fuel-efficient alternative to gasoline. A new analysis of data from R.L. Polk & Company shows that annual registrations of new diesel passenger vehicles in the U.S. — including cars, trucks and SUVs — has grown nearly 56 percent during the past five years, from 301,000 diesel vehicles in 2000 to nearly 470,000 diesel registrations in 2004. An increasing number of vehicles offer a choice between gasoline- and diesel-powered engines, and when faced with that choice, nearly 40 percent of consumers have selected the diesel engine option since 2000.

Concurrent with rising sales of diesel vehicles has been a greater availability of diesel fuel at local filling stations. According to another new report commissioned by DTF, “Consumer Accessibility to On-Highway Diesel Fuel,” diesel is now available at nearly half (42 percent) of fueling service stations across the country. This level represents a 12 percent increase from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s last report in 2000 that diesel was available at only 30 percent of U.S. service stations. Most drivers now recognize this greater accessibility to diesel fuel; according to a recent survey of 1,000 registered voters, nearly 70 percent of Americans agree that diesel is readily available at their local service stations.

“As more consumers become aware of the increasing availability and energy- saving benefits of these vehicles, we expect that the popularity of light-duty diesels in the U.S. will continue to grow, particularly if policymakers provide incentives to help spur this growth potential,” added Schaeffer.

American consumers now have more diesel choices than ever before. Four new light-duty diesel models were introduced in the U.S. in 2004 (the Jeep Liberty CRD, Mercedes E-320 CDI and the Volkswagen Passat and Touareg), making modern diesel technology now available in four key market segments — from economy cars and family station wagons to luxury sedans and SUVs. This is in addition to the continuing popularity of diesel engine options in medium-duty pickup trucks such as the Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, Ford F-Series and GMC Sierra trucks.

Consumers interested in learning more about diesel cars, trucks and SUVs can visit the Forum’s web site at http://www.dieselforum.org. The site features a complete list of the light-duty diesel vehicles available in the U.S., and provides additional information on the environmental, economic and energy conversation benefits of modern clean diesel technology. Visitors can also use the site’s nationwide diesel fuel locator to find local service stations carrying diesel.

“Consumer Accessibility to On-Highway Diesel Fuel” was conducted by Hart Downstream Energy Services on behalf of DTF. To view a full copy of the fuel availability study and to access the Polk data on rising diesel vehicle sales, visit http://www.dieselforum.org.

The Diesel Technology Forum represents manufacturers of engines, fuel and emissions control systems. It brings together the diesel industry, the broad diesel user community, civic and public interest leaders, government regulators, academics, scientists, the petroleum industry and public health researchers to encourage the exchange of information, ideas, scientific findings and points-of-view to current and future uses of diesel power technology. For more information about the Forum, visit our web site at http://www.dieselforum.org.

For more discussion on this story, click on the link to our discussion forums at the left.