Diesel engines have long been considered one of the backbones of the U. S. economy, providing the primary power source for America's transportation and logistics needs. But that supposition is being buttressed by some facts and figures from a report released by the Diesel Technology Forum (DTF), Herndon, Va.

Researched and prepared by economists at Charles River Associates, DTF's “Diesel Powers America” report shows that diesel engines provide the power to move 94% of all freight in the U.S., as well as 95% of all transit buses and heavy construction machinery. The diesel industry itself exceeds $85 billion in gross output a year, according to the study.

Even though freight traffic increased nearly 25% over the last decade, the cost of moving those goods has declined by 4%, highlighting the efficiency and “practicality” of diesel engines, according to Allen Schaeffer, DTF's executive director. “Diesel engines are tightly woven into the fabric of our nation's economy,” Schaeffer said at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

For example, every day diesel power transports 14-million children to school, moves 18-million tons of freight and moves 14-million commuters via transit buses across the U.S., he said.

Yet the cost of limiting or banning diesel is still underestimated, said Schaeffer. 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, the report said.

Due to the power and size limitations of gasoline engines, freight companies would require 50% more trucks to haul the amount of freight currently handled by diesel — resulting in a minimum of $35 billion in extra costs per year.

“From 1980 to 1998, while the U.S. population increased 19%, the number of vehicle-miles-travel climbed 72%, and the U.S. gross domestic product increased by 75%, emissions of particulate matter fell by 55% and emissions of nitrogen oxides increased just 1%,” said Schaeffer. “This makes it clear that economic growth and increased use of diesel engines can be consistent with a cleaner environment.”

For a copy of the report, go to www.dieselforum.org .