The dirty diesel engine isn’t quite as bad as it is normally painted, according to a paper issued by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the body which develop the safety and emission standards for many parts of the world, including Australia. The report tells us only a small percentage of the particulate matter (PM) in the atmosphere we breath is caused by diesel engines in trucks, on the road. The paper is titled ‘Diesel Engine Exhausts: Myths and Realities’ and examines the effect of diesel in both Europe and North America.
The paper concludes 83 per cent of the PM in Europe’s air comes from the commercial, institutional and household sectors. For the the USA this figure is even higher, at 97 per cent. This leads the report to the conclusion, claims which say PM from diesels is the main cause for lung cancer in humans can be challenged. Attacking the major sources of PM in the economy will have a better health outcome than continuing to decrease PM limits for diesels.
It is also noted the PM output of truck engines has been reduced by 90 per cent in the past twenty years. Diesel engines are also vital to the economies in the 56 countries included in the study. Economic growth remains dependant on the distribution of goods and diesel is the fuel which makes this happen, and there are no serious alternatives on the horizon.
“To improve the quality of air around us more attention must be given to the primary PM emitters,” said the paper. The authors of the report call for a rethink of the way authorities look at pollution sources, concentrating on vehicles, and diesels in particular is not going to reap the kinds of rewards, in terms of better health outcomes, they are looking for. Better results will be had cutting pollution from industry and households.
This UNECE paper is unlikely to reduce the pressure on trucking from pressure groups. Campaigns like those in Melbourne in the Yarravile area have thrived on scare stories about the trucks passing through, on the way to and from Melbourne Port, causing major health issues. This kind of real scientific analysis will not fit with the narrative.