The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Diesel Technology Forum commented today, as EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson showcased the nationwide availability of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel. Starting Sunday, operators of more than eight million diesel-powered trucks and buses plying America’s streets and highways will be able to fill up with a new, ultra-low sulfur fuel that is 97 percent cleaner than the old formulation it replaces. The new fuel, combined with innovative engine technology, will reduce diesel tailpipe pollution dramatically, with far- reaching clean air benefits, say both industry and environmental organizations. Cleaner diesel fuel will immediately cut soot emissions from any diesel vehicle by 10 percent. But when combined with a new generation of engines hitting the road in January, it will enable emission reductions of up to 95 percent, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF). “Diesel is the invisible force that moves the American economy, but until now it has also been a big polluter,” said Richard Kassel, head of NRDC’s Clean Fuels and Vehicles Project. “Combining the new fuel with cleaner and more energy-efficient engines will mean healthier air and help reduce our dependence on oil.” Diesel trucks move 94 percent of the nation’s goods — more than 18 million tons of freight each day. Half a million diesel buses take 14 million people to work and school. The new fuel opens the door for auto companies to begin offering cleaner diesel cars that deliver greater fuel economy. “Diesel vehicles have always been 20 to 40 percent more energy efficient than comparable gasoline engines,” said Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director. “With the switch to cleaner fuel, consumers will see more fuel- efficient diesel cars, pick-ups and SUVs on showroom floors in the years to come.” Improvements in both the fuel and the engines are required under new federal rules adopted by the Clinton administration and subsequently endorsed and implemented by the Bush administration. The policy was almost a decade in the making, and involved close collaboration between regulators, oil refiners, engine manufacturers and public health advocates to achieve a cost-effective solution. According to the associations, thhe diesel clean-up rivals the removal of lead from gasoline a generation ago. “This is what can be achieved when all sides agree to buckle down and hammer out real solutions,” Kassel said. A new 2007 diesel truck will emit just one-sixtieth the soot exhaust of one produced in 1988. And thanks to the new fuel, owners of existing diesel vehicles will have the option to install new emission controls that can reduce soot emissions by more than 90 percent. Together, the new diesel technologies — cleaner fuel, advanced engines, and new emission controls — will play a leading role in helping cities and states meet new federal air quality standards over the coming decade. “Getting industry, environmentalists and regulators around the table together produced better, faster results for everyone involved,” Schaeffer added. Clean, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel is important because sulfur tends to hamper exhaust-control devices in diesel engines, much the same way lead once impeded the effectiveness of catalytic converters on gasoline cars. Removing the sulfur from diesel will help usher in a new generation of clean diesel technology applications across all vehicle types. The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Diesel Technology Forum is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting clean diesel technologies. Forum members include engine and vehicle manufacturers, diesel fuel refiners, and manufacturers of emissions control devices.