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>Yet again the United States lags behind the environmental foresight of the Europeans. In an opinion piece in Automotive News ( the very Nordic sounding Kjell Bergh (in fact he owns a Volvo dealership is Minnesota) explains the benefits of the diesel engine and its widespread use in Europe. Americans have a skewed perception of diesel as being dirty, smelly and loud but it turns out diesel is actually more efficient and cleaner than the American gasoline propelled car.

So why haven’t Americans caught on to the diesel craze? Well, remember foresight? Unlike Europe and Japan the U.S. has not had a comprehensive energy strategy focused on reducing the use of fossil fuels. The U.S. has low gasoline taxes and weak fuel economy requirements leading to inefficient vehicles and high energy consumption. Sentiments began to change with the spike in oil prices in the summer of 2008 but instead of diesel vehicles the U.S. market has focused mainly on hybrids, fuel cell technology and plug-in electric vehicles. Still, market share of such vehicles is below 10%. In Norway 72% of all vehicles sold are diesel powered.

Is diesel really that much better? As reported in the article, a study by Intellichoice ( found that the larger upfront cost of a diesel powered car is more than made up for in just five years of driving. A diesel powered VW Jetta which costs $2,070 more than a comparable vehicle will save a driver $6,210 over five years. No that is savings we can believe in!

The US now stands at an energy crossroads which is confounded by even larger factors such as climate change, resource scarcity and protection of foreign petroleum resources ( Iraq anyone?). Hybrids, fuel cells and plug-in vehicles may be important to reducing our dependence on oil but diesel is also a viable and more efficient alternative to gasoline. It seems that the U.S. has become the slow, smelly and loud diesel engine of yore. It may be time to upgrade to a new European Volvo.