Finding an Environmentally Friendly Diesel Car

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/LUIS LOURO
Environmentally friendly diesel cars are available on the market.

Learn how to find an environmentally friendly diesel car in today’s auto market.

Diesels generally don’t make the green grade, says the
ACEEE. That’s because, even though they consume less fuel
than their gasoline counterparts and therefore release
fewer greenhouse gas emissions per mile driven, diesels
spew far more particulates and other nasties from their
tailpipes than conventional gas engines. Nitrogen oxides,
sulfur oxides and hydrocarbons, all pollutants that cause
urban smog, contribute to global warning and negatively
impact human health.

But don’t discount diesels just yet: they’re trying to
clean up their act, it is possible to find an environmentally friendly diesel car in today’s market. Today’s diesels pollute much less than
those of yesteryear. And as prices at the pump continue to
climb and savvy shoppers demand more fuel-efficient (and
cleaner) vehicles, manufactures are responding with
advanced emission control technologies that will allow
diesels to meet forthcoming EPA emissions standards.

Some enterprising individuals, reluctant to relinquish
their old, classic diesel workhorses (diesels are
well-known for their long-lived engines), are turning to
biodiesel to tidy up their tailpipes. Derived from
vegetable oils and animal fats, biodiesel is a cleaner,
greener fuel that significantly reduces end emissions,
especially sulfur oxides and hydrocarbons.

Using biodiesel fuel requires few or no engine
modifications; some drivers even report smoother running
cars and, sometimes, a little hike in fuel economy. The
primary obstacles to increased biodiesel use are its higher
cost (B20, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent
petro-diesel, costs 13 to 22 cents more per gallon than
standard diesel fuel), and limited availability and
production capacity. Only a handful of public biodiesel
stations operate in the United States, although the number
is steadily growing.

Other folks are circumventing the commercial biodiesel
industry by starting biodiesel co-ops and making their own
fuel from used vegetable oil harvested from the local
greasy spoon. And even more advanced gear heads are
converting their diesel engines to run on pure vegetable
oil. Conversion kits, which require some wrench finesse and
auto know-how, can be purchased online from www.greasel.com
. Biodiesel may not solve all our energy woes, but it may
help in the transition from fossil fuels. For more
information on more eco-friendly diesels, visit the
Alternative Fuels Data Center (www.afdc.doe.gov/altfuel/biodiesel.html) or the
National Biodiesel Board (www.biodiesel.org). You also can
order Josh Tickell’s “biodiesel bible,” From the Fryer to
the Fuel Tank
at http://www.motherearthnews.com
or www.veggievan.org.

— Claire Anderson