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Diesel Powers 94% of US Freight, Report Says

Diesel engines long have been considered the primary power source for America's transportation and logistics needs. But in a new report released by the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF), that supposition is buttressed by some facts and figures.

Prepared by economists at Charles River Associates, the DTF's Diesel Powers America report shows that diesel engines provide the power to move 94% of all freight in the United States.

Diesel also powers 95% of all transit buses and heavy construction machinery. The diesel industry itself - including refiners that make diesel fuel, diesel engine manufacturers, and the makers of diesel-powered equipment - exceeds $85 billion in gross output a year, according to the study.

That output is greater than the computer manufacturing and iron and steel industries, says the report.

Even while freight traffic increased nearly 25% over the past decade, the cost of moving those goods has declined by 4%, the report said - highlighting the efficiency and practicality of diesel engines, said Allen Schaeffer, DTF executive director.

If diesel engines were to be summarily banned from use, the next-best alternatives would increase freight costs by 56% for the trucking industry and 48% for rail, says the report.

Due to the limitations of gasoline engines, freight companies would require 50% more trucks to haul the amount of freight currently handled by diesel-fueled vehicles - resulting in a minimum of $35 billion in extra costs per year, says the report.

Those figures are not idle speculation, as serious efforts to limit diesel engine use are under way in California and Texas. Those efforts are putting further pressure on the diesel industry, which is already looking at huge mandated reductions in diesel engine emissions by the year 2007.

The DTF hopes this report will educate both policy-makers and the general public about the role diesel engines play in the national economy, especially regarding environmental policy.

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