New Report Shows - Diesel Power Key to Success of U.S. Economy

New clean diesel power is a technology of the future as much as computerization, the digital age, and fiber optics and it will continue to have a major impact on the U.S. and global economy."

Published: 01-Dec-2000

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 /PRNewswire/ -- Diesel powers the American economy. Today's farms are more productive; the nation is moving more goods, transporting more people, building more new businesses, and has a higher standard of living -- thanks in great measure to the reliable and efficient diesel engine. That is the conclusion of an extensive study conducted by Charles River Associates and released today by the Diesel Technology Forum.

"Now, for the first time, we have a well documented and quantitative report, that defines diesel's critical role in the economic fabric of the nation. The diesel impact is enormous, and in some cases irreplaceable," stated Allen Schaeffer, the Forum's executive director. "The future economic growth of the nation is strategically linked to diesel power."

The study attributes much of the country's current prosperity to the role played by diesel engines, which power 94% of all freight moving in trucks, trains, boats and barges; two-thirds of all farm machinery; more than 95% of all public transit buses, and all heavy construction machinery.

The annual gross output of the diesel industry manufacturing diesel equipment, fuel and related materials exceeds $85 billion -- greater than the combined gross value of all the computer hardware and office machines manufactured in America. The diesel industry pays workers $13 billion annually. Over all, America invests more than $21 billion in new diesel equipment each year.

"The nation's entire transportation and commercial infrastructure relies on thousands of diesel engines each day -- from tug-boats and ocean container ships to railroad locomotives, tractor trailers and package delivery vans," stated Schaeffer, "More than ever in today's high-tech, Internet-driven economy, it is the diesel engine that delivers the goods to consumers and businesses and provides vital power to e-commerce."

Even while freight traffic increased nearly 25% in the last decade, the cost of moving those goods has declined by 4%, highlighting the progressive efficiency of diesel-powered transportation. Diesel power is so efficient and reliable that replacing it with the "next best" alternative would dramatically increase freight cost by 56% for trucking, by 48% for rail, slowing overall economic growth and reducing productivity. Due to power and size limitations of gasoline engines, freight companies would require 50% more trucks to haul the same amount of freight as diesel costing a minimum of $35 billion a year in increased labor costs.

The inherent benefits of diesel technology are not purely economic. Diesel is part of an enlightened U.S. energy policy. For example, today's study notes that introduction of new clean-diesel powered light-duty vehicles -- cars, light duty trucks and SUV's -- would dramatically reduce petroleum use across the country. An increase in the proportion of diesel engines in these vehicles to just 25% over the next twenty years would reduce petroleum use by 345,000 barrels each day -- an amount equivalent to cutting by 75% the total daily energy use for transportation in New York.

"Despite these significant economic contributions, the future of diesel is at risk," stated Schaeffer. "Initiatives in California and Texas and other parts of the country to limit or ban diesel use can potentially cause economic damage in the form of higher consumer prices and loss of jobs. If we fail to fully take into consideration the enormous economic contributions and the many inherent benefits of clean diesel technology, we will seriously hamper the nation's ability to achieve environmental and energy goals and continued economic prosperity."

"Diesel's essential and almost irreplaceable role in the transport of goods, as enabler of emergency services, and in the building and maintaining of the nation's infrastructure is critical to our quality of life," affirmed Schaeffer. "New clean diesel power is a technology of the future as much as computerization, the digital age, and fiber optics and it will continue to have a major impact on the U.S. and global economy."

The following are highlights of the Economic Report. A copy of the report, an executive summary, graphs, and pictures are available in the features section under economic news on the Diesel Technology Web site at

Agriculture - Since World War II, farm productivity has increased 150%, while cropland has remained relatively constant. In 1945, farms used 2.3 million tractors averaging 25 horsepower; by 1997 there were 3.9 million tractors averaging more than double the horsepower with nearly one million with over 100 horsepower. This increased use of mechanized farm equipment, most of which is powered by diesel, is one of the reasons for increased farm productivity.

Automobiles - Diesel powered light trucks and SUV's are now increasing their entry into the U.S. market. In 1999, 435,000 diesel powered light trucks were manufactured for the North American market -- double the number of five years ago. According to the Department of Energy, three of the top five 2001 model year highest fuel-economy rated passenger cars are diesel-powered. Based on fuel prices of July, 2000, a U.S. built diesel powered pickup truck cost 7 cents per mile less to operate than a gasoline equivalent.

Construction - With an output of $850 billion per year, construction is one of the nation's largest economic sectors. The industry purchased 440,000 off-road diesel powered units from 1991-95 alone. In 1997 the industry operated 850,000 diesel-powered trucks. No other technology can provide the power and torque of diesel engines to move earth, lift cranes or drive piles, while being sufficiently mobile to move among different job sites.

Mining/Energy - 72% of the energy used in the surface mining of coal is diesel. The 300-ton capacity trucks and the unit trains carrying more than 11,000 tons of coal must rely on diesel -- other engines cannot deliver the power necessary for the job. 85% of the energy used in drilling oil and gas wells and 52% of the energy used in support activities for oil and gas operations is diesel.

National Defense - Diesel powered vehicles are the vehicles of choice because of their reliability, energy efficiency and safety due to the low volatility of diesel fuel. From the Navy's amphibious force vessels, to the Army and Marine Bradley fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and amphibious assault vehicles to the High Mobility Multipurpose wheeled vehicle HMMWV-"HUMVEE"-- all are diesel powered. Diesel also provides vital back-up power on nuclear submarines, and powers all major aircraft tugs and major service vehicles of the Air Force.

Public Transportation - Over 95% of the nation's full-sized transit buses (47,252 in 1998) are powered by diesel. Approximately 60% of American students travel to school on diesel powered buses. Inter-city scheduled buses serve over 3,700 destinations and all are exclusively diesel powered, while 566 communities across the county are serviced by certified air-carriers and just over 500 are served by Amtrak rail service. While buses account for only 6% of passenger miles, they account for 27% of the nation's passengers.

Transport (Truck, Train, Barge) - Between 1990 and 1998, the real cost of moving a ton of freight one-mile fell by more than 4%, while the number of freight ton-miles grew by nearly 25%. From 1992-97, 1.2 million diesel trucks were added to the nation's fleet, an increase of 32%. These new diesel trucks have 80% fewer emissions than those built before 1988. In the past decade, average diesel truck horsepower has increased 8% and the average diesel locomotive by 17 %. Without diesel, rail transportation costs would increase by 48%, trucking cost by 56%. It would cost $300 billion to electrify only the most heavily used rail lines. There is no reasonable alternative power source for river barge towboats. Each year they move over 1.5 billion tons of grain, coal and other bulk commodities.

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