Im­proved fuel

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT -

Which is bet­ter for the en­vi­ron­ment – diesel or un­leaded petrol?

IN the past, diesel fuel was al­ways con­sid­ered dirt­ier than petrol. But newer stan­dards reg­u­lat­ing sul­phur con­tent and im­proved technology in diesel en­gines have made diesel some­what kinder to the en­vi­ron­ment. Many eco-ad­vo­cates now tout diesel as a vi­able and prefer­able al­ter­na­tive to reg­u­lar un­leaded petrol.

Where diesel fuel re­ally shines over petrol is im­proved fuel econ­omy, thanks to its higher “en­ergy den­sity”: diesel con­tains more power per litre than petrol. To­day’s diesel en­gines have 20% to 40% bet­ter fuel econ­omy than their petrol coun­ter­part, which some say more than makes up for the fact that they also pro­duce about 15% more green­house gases. This greater ef­fi­ciency means that diesel en­gines emit less car­bon monox­ide and car­bon diox­ide and fewer hy­dro­car­bons than gaso­line en­gines.

Diesel’s down­side is that it emits larger amounts of ni­tro­gen com­pounds and par­tic­u­late mat­ter (soot) that can cause res­pi­ra­tory prob­lems and even can­cer. The Cal­i­for­nia Air Re­sources Board at­tributes 70% of that state’s can­cer risk from air­borne tox­ins to soot from diesel cars and trucks. Na­tion­wide, stud­ies have shown a 26% mor­tal­ity in­crease for those liv­ing in soot-pol­luted ar­eas.

But diesel’s dark side is get­ting a lit­tle brighter, thanks to new tech­nolo­gies such as Mercedes-Benz’ BlueTEC sys­tem (now used in many VW, Audi and Chrysler diesel mod­els) that fil­ters par­tic­u­lates while im­prov­ing over­all en­gine per­for­mance. The Diesel Technology Fo­rum (DTF), a trade as­so­ci­a­tion of car-mak­ers, en­gine builders and petroleum dis­trib­u­tors, re­ports that tech­nolo­gies now com­mon­place in new diesel en­gines re­duce the tailpipe out­put of par­tic­u­late mat­ter by as much as 90% and ni­tro­gen ox­ides by some 50% com­pared to diesel en­gines on the road just a decade ago.

“Thanks to state-of-the-art en­gines, cleaner-burn­ing fu­els, ef­fec­tive emis­sions-con­trol sys­tems, and ad­vance­ments in the fuel in­jec­tion sys­tem, it would take 60 trucks sold to­day to equal the soot emis­sions of one 1988 truck,” re­ports DTF.

Mean­while, con­tin­u­ally im­prov­ing fuel ef­fi­ciency stan­dards in the Euro­pean Union (where the ma­jor­ity of new cars pur­chased in many mem­ber coun­tries use diesel fuel) are forc­ing car-mak­ers to de­sign more fuel ef­fi­cient, less pol­lut­ing ve­hi­cles around the world. An­other green ben­e­fit of diesel-pow­ered en­gines is their abil­ity to run on plant-de­rived biodiesel in­stead of petroleum-based diesel. And in the near fu­ture con­sumers may be able to shop for new diesel-elec­tric hy­brid cars now on the draw­ing boards of ma­jor au­tomak­ers around the world. – EarthTalk/EThe En­vi­ron­men­tal Mag­a­zine

Cleaner now: To­day’s diesel is some­what kinder to the en­vi­ron­ment, thanks to newer stan­dards reg­u­lat­ing sul­phur con­tent.

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