While the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) ranks high as one of more controversial trade policies of modern times it has, without doubt, benefited trade relations between the three member nations—Mexico, the United States and Canada.
Everyday goods made in all three countries cross dozens of international ports of entry, a massive north-south movement of billions of dollars in products and materials that ultimately affect the economy and growth of an entire continent.
This year represents the 20th anniversary of NAFTA and member nations gathered in Chicago in April 22-25 in a summit designed to address the issues of environmental impacts and improving energy sustainability in North American trade.
"As our three nations gather to discuss the 20 years of NAFTA and its future, we’ll also recognize the benefits of a cleaner environment and role of diesel technology as the economic engine for free trade in North America," says Allen Schaeffer, Executive Director of the U.S.-based Diesel Technology Forum. "In the U.S. we can now move cargo on trucks that have virtually zero emissions and improved fuel economy that saves money for equipment owners."
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New diesel technology is a central theme to the summit according to organizers, and for good reason. Diesel technology moves more than 80 percent of all cargo in the U.S. and more than 90 percent throughout the world. Schaeffer says diesel is the prime mover of the global economy whether by truck, train, boat or barge.
The Diesel Technology Forum is one of the sponsors for the conference and the organization is represented on the Advisory Committee for the tri-national summit.
In addition to illustrating how new diesel technologies will affect NAFTA, the Forum also illustrates how new technologies are benefiting industry, especially agriculture. New diesel engines are helping farmers to be more environmentally friendly and offer the added benefit of being fuel efficient.
The most advanced and efficient clean diesel equipment and technology for construction, industrial and farm use was unveiled to the public last month in Las Vegas at the international CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014 convention. Because most construction and agricultural equipment is diesel-powered, the new generation of clean diesel technology unveiled at the convention will power the future of these two vital sectors of the economy, according to Schaeffer.
"In 2004, EPA challenged diesel engine and equipment makers to virtually eliminate emissions from a wide range of diesel engines used in construction, farm and industrial applications," Schaeffer said. "Beginning in 2008, manufacturers responded with increasingly low-emissions technology leading up to the 2014 Tier 4 standards."
Schaeffer said manufacturers have met the emissions challenge by using a variety of innovative engineering strategies to deliver near- zero emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide emissions across this wide range of equipment. Particulate filters, exhaust gas recirculation, oxidation catalysts, selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and many in-engine strategies are being deployed in varying combinations.
Schaeffer says in 2009, agriculture produced $330 billion in output, of which $27.2 billion was for farm sales, contributing $176.6 billion to the nation’s GDP. Total added value of agriculture to the U.S. economy is estimated to be $365 billion, driven by new diesel technologies.
In addition, over 60 percent of mining and fuel production equipment is diesel-powered. The nation gets 93 percent of its energy from mined sources, such as petroleum, natural gas, coal and uranium. Diesel is the dominant fuel source in the construction industry as well, powering 60 percent of construction equipment and using 98 percent of all energy.
The new engine technologies are improving fuel consumption and emissions and the forum also examines how a variety of hybrid technologies are being adapted to improve freight efficiency, and how new sources of North American energy will play a role in moving commerce.
“The advancements in clean diesel technology over the past 20 years have been simply remarkable,” Schaeffer said. “Over the past two decades manufacturers have developed new technology that has reduced particulate matter by 98 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 98 percent. In addition, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel has reduced sulfur by 97 percent – from 500 ppm to 15 ppm."
Schaeffer says virtually all of the clean diesel evolution has occurred during the NAFTA years and has resulted in significant environmental and efficiency benefits. He says new diesel technology will provide further benefits as NAFTA moves forward.
"The best examples of the new generation of clean diesel engines and equipment come from the leaders in the industry—companies like Caterpillar, Cummins, Bosch, Deere, Volvo, Johnson Matthey, Navistar, Mack Trucks, Tognum/MTU Onsite Energy, Case New Holland, Yanmar, FPT Industrial and Isuzu. They are producing technologies that meet the growing demands of their customers and increasingly diverse societal demands for environmental performance," Schaeffer added.
The new generation of clean diesel heavy duty trucks now accounts for more than one-third of all trucks registered on the road in the United States.
For more information about the Summit, visit http://www.naftanext.com/program/.