Are Diesel Engines Bad For The Environment?

31 July 2015
 Categories: Environmental, Blog

If you are ready to purchase a new car or truck, you may be considering trying out a diesel vehicle for various reasons, including the increased mileage you will get over gas burning vehicles. Before you decide to switch, you should consider the effects that operating a diesel-operated engine will have on the environment.


You will go farther on a gallon of diesel fuel than you will on a gallon of gasoline, 20 to 35 percent farther, in fact. Diesel fuel does cost you more, partly because the federal tax on the fuel is six cents higher than on gasoline. Diesel also currently costs more than gasoline. In April of 2015, the price was more than thirty cents higher per gallon. Still, diesel users have at least a 24% cost advantage over gasoline users, which adds up over the course of a vehicle's lifetime. 


Diesel vehicles are responsible for two-thirds of all the particulates produced by U.S. transportation and nearly half of nitrogen oxide emissions. Once considered a more socially conscious fuel than gasoline, diesel is now seen as the source for a high level of air pollution, both in the US and abroad. 

Health Effects

The particulates in diesel exhaust are only one-fifth as thick as a human hair, so they can be easily inhaled, going far into the lungs and causing health problems such as coughing, headaches, and nausea. The particulates in diesel fuel are particularly troublesome and exacerbate the symptoms of respiratory disease, especially among children and the elderly. Those who work around diesel emissions also have a greater chance of developing lung cancer. The EPA states that particulate matter is responsible for 15,000 "premature deaths" in the United States each year. 

The nitrogen oxides in diesel fuel can create ozone at ground level, a situation that causes breathing problems in both healthy people and those with existing respiratory conditions. High levels of nitrogen oxide in the air routinely lead to increased trips to hospital emergency rooms and other medical facilities. 

Stricter regulations are being applied to new diesel engines, and older engines can be retrofitted to reduce the pollution they cause. Still, you may want to consider the environmental impact your new vehicle will have. Although you may be saving fuel by operating a diesel engine, you might be doing more harm to the air you breathe. Before buying a vehicle, research its emission safeguards so you know how it will impact the environment. 

For more information about particulates in the air, read up about epa method 5