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Diesel Gets a Bad Rap

Posted by: David Welch on January 9, 2008

Here we go. California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a report saying that diesel emissions cause 84% of cancer risk in Southern California. Namely, diesel exhaust coming from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach cause the biggest risk. In those areas, the study says, 2,900 people per million are at risk for cancer. More acceptable risk is 1 to 10 people per million.

Cue up the green activists saying, ‘we told you so.’ In Europe, diesel has been the rage for years, It’s often at least 25% more efficient than gasoline engines. And the new diesel engines are just about as clean. But this study will probably give diesel a black eye in the fuel efficiency debate because it’s bound to be misinterpreted. Someone at the Sierra Club once told me that diesel is a bad idea because it causes cancer. He pointed to a decades-old study that looked at locomotive workers who were exposed to diesel. If you’re talking about the sooty, belching 18-wheelers pulling out of the Port of L.A., then diesel‘s carcinogenic emissions is a real problem.

But that’s not the case with the new generation of cleaner diesel cars. Mercedes-Benz has led the way with clean diesel and Honda will have its own answer to that quandary very soon. Hopefully, these new cars will get a chance for acceptance before they are lumped in with freight trucks and labeled carcinoma cars.

Reader Comments


January 9, 2008 7:16 PM

Need I say that the primary goal of those employed by (I did't say 'working for') is to stay employed and with great good luck under the likes of Gore, grow like gangbusters. Report? who researched and wrote it? Another layer of mindless bureaucrats sharing the same goals. Truth be told, the stench is largely from the stacks of the various ships, including US-flagged. Diesel trucks no longer belch smoke and fumes any more than modern jets leave smoke trails on take-off.

As to Eurocars and their diesels, those in Japan as well, I imagine their makers are cleaning up their acts because of a number of pressures, not to mention just having to live around them. While MB has a much-touted 'cure', it most likely follows that it very costly to maintain, a family trai, after all. And then there is HONDA with its solution to diesel pollution, no doubt far more practical and affordable.

How many of those 2900/mil are smokers, by the way?


January 10, 2008 1:31 PM

I can't see why anyone can argue against diesel passenger vehicle without arguing in the same breath against commercial diesels...

Why are we rattling on about something which would cut our consumption without discussing how far the retail goods we buy have to travel from factory to retail sales point? The travel from China to America causes pollution too...

Lastly what is the effect of diesel particulates vs gasoline particulates? The gasoline particulates are much smaller but they do exist and I would wager they make it further into the lungs than diesel particulates.

I'll buy a diesel next time but what I really want is a 50 mile range electric car to carry us to school and work and back. 50 miles would last us several days between charges!

John Aguilar

January 10, 2008 11:56 PM

The very sad part of all this, is the fact that the South Coast AQMD does hot have to answer to the public. No one can reverse their decisions, except the courts. There is no legislative oversight in anything they do. This is a locomotive going at full speed with no brakes. The carnage to small business owners will be heavy. As my mentor always told me, "be careful what you wish for."

Marina Stoev

January 11, 2008 8:17 AM

Dear Noz,
By your comments I believe you DO NOT leave around the ports, and for sure you DO NOT drive at all on 710.
And before you decided to introduce new questions as "how many of those 2900/mil are smokers, by the way?" check how many of those are kids.
And just to let you know, the majority of people that are affect by this "friendly" smoke don't have health insurance, so your tax dollars are paying for medicare... maybe we should also have a study about people that leaves around LAX, and i proposed that you Noz, take charge of the report and see if some people are affect by the jets.
BTW: planes do not use diesel. Boats does!!!

Michael Coates

January 11, 2008 4:44 PM

It's even more worse than you say. The report (which has not been peer-reviewed) talks only about cancers from air toxics, which represent only 1% of the cancers in the region. Thus, the real number, if it is accurate, is .084% of cancers coming from diesel air toxics.
Michael Coates
West Coast Representative
Diesel Technology Forum

paul mcgraw

January 12, 2008 10:31 AM

I like the idea of diesel powered vehicles. However, the price of diesel fuel is outrageous. It's 20 to 25 cents higher than premium gas. So, any savings you get from fuel economy are used up because you're paying alot more per gallon for it.
Hybrids are still a better idea because they get good mileage and use gas, which is much cheaper than diesel.
Paul McGraw
Long Island, NY

John Winter

January 13, 2008 6:20 PM


If you do the math, it is still cheaper to run a diesel than to run the equivalent gasser, even though gas is still cheaper. I drive a Jeep Liberty Limited CRD and get 30 MPG on the highway. The V-6 version does not even get 20 MPG from what I have read. If regular unleaded gas is 2.999/gallon, it would cost 15cents/mile to run the V-6 Jeep Liberty. I paid 3.299 for diesel today and at 30MPG that comes out to 11 cents/mile or a 36% saving per mile driven. Not shabby.

To Noz, please remember that gassers actualy dump tons of unburned hydrocarbon into the air, something a diesel does not do. Also, diesels emit far less carbon monoxide than a gasser. My Jeep diesel is actually cleaner on these two counts than the vaunted Toyota Prius.


January 14, 2008 2:35 PM

Ever been over seas, they got diesel motors in just about every thing I rode in,BUT with one huge differance--they have sticks not automatic tranys-- that is were the real saving comes in. I have always had sticks and have alwasy gotten 15-25% better gas milage then the same cars with auto's ( I get 45PMG Saturn SL1, Astro Van 30mpg present)With a little arm power we could easy get the huge MPG increase every one wants, add a diesel for even more savings. I alwasy wondered why any one bought a small car with a auto, you then get the mpg of a mid size to large vehical. Sticks for ever for me!


January 17, 2008 12:15 AM

diesel you get cancer,gaz c02,fast food heart probleme,the scientice,the money from the compagnie paid for the report more money if the result in favor of the compagnie or the green saver,what is nex.

August 28, 2009 12:42 AM

diesel engines and gasoline engines are quite similar

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