Particularly Interesting

written by John Wieme, Biodiesel Program Manager at The Energy Co-op


Are you familiar the Diesel Emission Reduction Act? Signed into law by President Bush as part of the excitingly named “Energy Policy Act of 2005,” the Diesel Emission Reduction Act or DERA “appropriated funds to federal and state loan programs to either rebuild diesel-powered vehicle engines to more stringent emission standards or install emission reduction systems, notify affected parties, and share the technological information with countries that have poor air quality standards.”

The EPA’s National Clean Diesel Campaign (NCDC), in conjunction with DERA funds, seeks to promote clean air strategies by reducing emissions from existing diesel engines. DERA makes funding available to retrofit older vehicles with new, advanced emission control technologies, replace older vehicles with new vehicles that include emission control technologies, reduce idling hours, and promote the use of cleaner fuels e.g. propane, biodiesel, or natural gas.

As part of the act, the EPA was required to issue a report to Congress a year after DERA funds were appropriated. The report covers 2008 and was released in 2009. You can read the whole thing but here are some of the accomplishments in the first year:

  • 46,000 tons of nitrogen oxide (precursor to smog and acid rain) emissions reduced
  • 2,200 tons of particulate matter (implicated in a myriad of health issues) emissions reduced
  • 3.2 million gallons of fuel saved

Additionally, the EPA sought to quantify the health savings from reducing particulate matter emissions. Particulates are a particularly (ha!) harmful health hazard and the main component of air pollution that makes the air seem dirty. Literally. They have also been implicated in a variety of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases including asthma, lung cancer, birth defects, and premature death.

Because of the health risks, the EPA has established health benefit savings as a dollar per ton reduced figure which varies county to county around the country depending on the county’s overall diesel fuel use, sectors where it is used (on-road, locomotive, marine, etc), and its population size and density.

Each year the EPA designates priority county areas and all five (Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia) counties in our region are designated, meaning that we have consistently high levels of particulate matter air pollution. Using EPA’s Diesel Emissions Quantifier (DEQ) , I was able to determine the health benefit saving amounts for each of the five counties for the on-road of diesel:

  • Chester: $1,185,125 / ton
  • Bucks: $1,835,564 / ton
  • Delaware: $2,659,574 / ton
  • Montgomery: $1,806,589 / ton
  • Philadelphia: $5,769,231 / ton

As a biodiesel distributor, I tend to talk about and focus on the lifecycle carbon dioxide emission reductions of using biodiesel. Biodiesel, in its typical form of B20 (20% Biodiesel, 80% petro-diesel), reduces CO2 emissions by about 15% compared to regular petroleum diesel. In doing this research on the NCDC and DERA, I’ve realized the importance of also reducing particulate matter emissions. Using the National Biodiesel Board’s Emissions Calculator , I plugged in numbers for the biodiesel The Energy Co-op distributed in 2013 to four of the five counties (we currently do not serve any biodiesel members in Bucks County) then used the dollar amounts from EPA’s DEQ to calculate health savings. Here are my results:

Energy Savings Energy Savings  You can clearly see the impact that reducing PM has. In 2013, The Co-op’s biodiesel members reduced PM emission by 0.5459 tons. This doesn’t seem like much but when quantified for health benefits, that little over half a ton turns into over $840,000 in health benefits.


I spend a lot of time at work thinking about, calculating, and reporting on greenhouse gas emission reductions and what the continued release of these pollutants means for our planet. We see in the news the effects of greenhouse gas increases and what the rise of these and overall global temperatures entails.


By using more sustainable energy, members of The Co-op reduce greenhouse gases while simultaneously reducing other harmful emissions that have a clear and direct health benefit for our region.

John Wieme is the Biodiesel Program Manager for The Energy Co-op, the only independently-owned, local, nonprofit energy supplier in Southeastern PA.



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