Obama budget slashes funding for DERA’s emissions reduction program

Updated May 3, 2013

Let’s see…Solyndra gets $535 million in government cheese, goes belly up without ever producing a single product or service.  Al Gore-connected Fiskars gets half a billion government  dollars to build $97,000 electric cars in Finland, only 40 of which are being produced. Only movie stars can afford these, and even the New York Times says the future of electric cars is “dismal.”

But DERA, aka the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program, which gave grants to contractors and agencies to help offset the cost of emissions reducing technology, and which has a solid track record of success, gets its budget cut by 70 percent in the administration’s current proposals.

The president’s budget will take DERA’s funding from $20 million in 2013 to $6 million in 2014. By my back-envelope calculations, that’s enough money for less than a thousand retrofit diesel particulate filters, which is what most of the money was used for in the past.

The Diesel Technology Forum says DERA provided $13 in benefits for every $1 invested. Well, maybe. Washington D.C. is full of funny math like that. But there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that the DERA funding reduces the worst sort of diesel air pollution.

The technology works, and many of the beneficiaries were public fleets which were operating under mandates to use the best available technology, or BAT in the argot of this industry. DERA was also aimed at cleaning up the oldest and dirtiest elements of fleets, providing lots of bang for the bucks.

Electric cars, by contrast do nothing to reduce air pollution. Most will get their juice from coal fired power plants. But that hardly matters in our nation’s capital. It’s not results that count in D.C., but rather it’s a combination of bribery (lobbying) and appeals to low-information politicians and the fantasies of the mechanically illiterate.

If the president and congress were serious about reducing air pollution, they would quadruple funding for DERA, not cut it. Better yet, just move the decimal point over one to the right. $200 million is more like it, and that’s still a pittance by Washington standards.

$6 million is an insult.

It will be interesting to hear what the American Lung Association and the National Cancer Institute say about this. They’re the agencies that have squawked the loudest about the health impacts of diesel exhaust. Will they protest, or, perhaps not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them, stay silent?