The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't plan to relax air pollution rules to make it easier for automakers to sell fuel-efficientdiesel-powered cars and trucks, an EPA official said March 4, according to a Wall Street Journal
story by Jeffrey Ball.Automakers have hinted in recent months that they want the EPA to loosen its so-called Tier2 emission rules to make way for more diesels. Diesels get better fuel economy than comparable gasoline engines, so they would help auto makersmeet what they expect will be some increase in a separate federal rule: the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standard.On March 4, the 2002 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress in Detroit was the scene of a lovefest for the inclusion of diesel technology in the discussion of fuel economy and the future of the auto industry, according to the Detroit Free Press
. "Modern dieseltechnology can answer many of the needs of our society," claimed Nick Scheele, chief operating officer at Ford Motor Co. "Yes, it's got itsproblems, but the advantages vastly outweigh its shortcomings."In Europe, diesel engines power about 30 percent of vehicles and the panelists agreed that there should be serious consideration given to bringing the technology back to the United States.The problem with diesels, however, is that even today's modern versions emit more nitrogen oxides and soot particulates than comparable gasoline engines, which means automakershave more work to do before they can get their diesels to meet the increasingly stringent Tier 2 rules.Jeffrey R. Holmstead, the EPA's assistant administrator for air and radiation, said at an auto industry that loosening of the Tier 2 rules would be "a mistake" and isn't necessary. "My sense is the Tier 2 structure will accommodate as many diesels as anybody will want to sell," he said, referring to automakers."I think it's important for the industry to stand up and say all these technologies meet the same [air-pollution] standard," Holmstead said.According to Holmstead, Americans aren't likely to accept diesels widely as an alternative to gasoline-powered engines unless they're convinced diesels are as environmentally friendly in all respects.