‘Dirty’ fuel cleaning up

Rachel Dornhelm Oct 16, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: A funny thing happened on the way to the Dow’s 12,000 today. Oil bumped up almost a buck and a half. Just shy of $60 a barrel at the close in New York. The rise followed news over the weekend that OPEC will meet this Thursday to finalize its million-barrel-a-day production cut.

But even as the cartel pulls back, more crude could begin flowing from Alaska. BP announced today its Prudhoe Bay field will be back up to full service by the weekend. Of course, the more oil we have, the more we use. More driving, for one.

Demand for diesel fuel could increase, thanks to a cleaner version drivers will be noticing today. Rachel Dornhelm reports.

RACHEL DORNHELM: Diesel engines are more fuel efficient than their gasoline counterparts — 20 to 40 percent more. But the problem has always been their sooty emissions. Today, consumers will find a new clean-burning diesel at gas stations.

RICHARD KASSEL: This is easily the biggest vehicle pollution step since lead was taken out of gasoline in the 1970s.

That’s Richard Kassel with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says the fuel, coupled with new engine requirements in January, will make diesel vehicles and the country’s health care system more efficient.

KASSEL: Every dollar invested in cleaner diesel engines yields $17 in health benefits.

Consumers intent on driving green also have a car in this race. The Diesel Technology Forum’s Allen Schaeffer.

ALLEN SCHAEFFER: With this cleaner fuel, manufacturers now have the best opportunity they’ve had in many years to meet the upcoming, more-stringent EPA emissions standards which are really the barrier to getting more diesel cars in the U.S.

JD Power analyst Jeff Schuster says he predicts clean diesel cars will have a 10 percent market share within a decade.

JEFF SCHUSTER: We are actually expecting diesel engines to overtake the hybrid vehicle in terms of overall share by the 2009 timeframe.

Schuster says the car companies promising clean diesel technology by 2008 include GM and Honda. DaimlerChrysler’s Mercedes division is currently out front.

I’m Rachel Dornhelm for Marketplace.

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