Pollution regs, not love, are in the air

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Tim Murphy hit the nail on the head as he summarized the Bush administration’s plan to cut emissions from off-road diesel engines.

The Wisconsin-based distributor of construction and forestry equipment said simply that any additional costs for engine manufacturers to comply with the proposed rule will mean higher machinery and equipment costs.

“I’m not debating whether it’s a good measure or a bad measure,” Murphy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Those costs are going to be part of the cost of doing business. Any increase in costs will be passed on to the customers.” Period.

As you can read in our page 1 article, the EPA has proposed tighter diesel emission levels for off-road engines – engines that power the bulk of construction and agricultural equipment.

On-road vehicle emission standards have been in place since the 1970s; standards for off-road diesel engines have been in place only since 1996. The industry is forced to play catch-up in roughly 10 years what has taken the on-road sector 30 years to achieve..

Re-engineering the new off-road engines will be costly. A Caterpillar representative guess-timated earlier this year the cost to “be in the billions.”

Tim Murphy can tell you who will ultimately pay the price.

Farms and ranches use almost $19 billion worth of diesel-powered tractors, combines, and other farm equipment. More than 60 percent of all construction equipment – nearly $17 billion worth – is diesel-powered.

The EPA standards take a two-prong approach: engines and fuel. These off-road diesel engines are currently allowed to burn higher-sulfur diesel fuel with a sulfur concentration at about 3,400 parts per million. The proposal cuts that to 500 ppm in 20007 and to 15 ppm by 2010.

Fuel refiners will also bear an additional cost of meeting the new fuel standards, again passed on to consumers. One source pegs that cost at between 5 cents and 10 cents more per gallon for diesel fuel.

More than tractors. Wait, there’s more. The pending Clean Air Act reauthorization is likely to affect more than just your tractor’s emissions.

The latest push is to clamp down on livestock farm “air pollution.” (Can you say “manure odor?”)

Environmental groups have been pushing the EPA to include emissions from production ag sources under air quality standards.

The tricky part is measuring odor. A National Research Council report released last December concluded the EPA’s method of calculating emissions from livestock farms isn’t scientifically “adequate.”

It’s hard to factor in differences in species, farm management practices, barn design and the differing number of animals found on each farm.

Air quality is not just about power plants anymore, it’s about farms, too. Expect to hear more and more about air quality down on the farm. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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