Dirty diesel has high health costs

A REPORT commissioned by the World LP Gas Association has pointed to diesel engines as being the main contributors to airborne particulate matter (PM) pollution, incurring significant human and financial costs.
Dirty diesel has high health costs Dirty diesel has high health costs Dirty diesel has high health costs Dirty diesel has high health costs Dirty diesel has high health costs

The report was prepared by Dr Bin Jalaludin from the University of New South Wales in consultation with Australian air quality expert Peter Anyon, and presented to an Auotgas Industry Network meeting in Sydney last week.

The paper assessed the monetary cost of ill health caused by airborne PM pollution emitted by motor vehicles.

It calculated the health cost to the community of one diesel-powered van travelling 30,000 kilometres a year to be about $800-1300 per annum.

The report also said an LPG-powered van performing the same task would generate a health cost of less than $40 per annum because of its cleaner tailpipe emissions.

It concluded that in many countries the economic burden of vehicle pollution is estimated to exceed 2% of national gross domestic product (GDP).

But David Rynne, of the Australian Trucking Association, said when refining costs and emissions are taken into account, LPG and low sulphur diesel were comparable.

"In terms of by the time you convert the gas to a liquid form, get the derivatives, the energy consumption and greenhouse emissions attributable to that, the life cycle analyses [of LPG and low-sulphur] from start to tailpipe are comparable," Rynne said.

But Phil Westlake, of LPG Australia, said the planned introduction of low sulphur diesel fuel into the Australian market over the next three years would have little effect of PM emissions.

"Just because it's low sulphur doesn't mean to say it has low particulates," Westlake said.

He also said exhaust gas recirculation systems were more associated with nitrogen oxide emissions.

Westlake said that in Europe, there were growing concerns about the health effects of PM pollution on the community, especially in the light of the rapid growth in diesel vehicle sales in that region over the last decade.

"The World Health Organisation in Europe published a report in 2004 looking at the health effects of transport-related air pollution, and they came to the conclusion that as many deaths would result from the effects of transport pollution as are killed in road accidents in Europe," he said.

In the wake of increasing petrol prices, Australian sales of diesel-powered passenger cars, SUVs and light commercials rose by 15% in 2005 to 110,607 vehicles.

While the LPG lobby is comparing its favoured fuel to standard petroleum diesel, diesel engines can without any modifications also run on biodiesel, which is low in particulates. Advocates of gas-to-liquids fuels also claim that GTL produces a low-sulphur, low-particulate diesel fuel.

The use of LPG in Australian vehicles is primarily centred on light commercials and passenger vehicles, but Westlake said there were some opportunities for LPG use in heavy vehicles.

"There are what we call "substitution systems", which run diesel and LPG concurrently," he said.

"They're under evaluation, but the results look promising."