Greenwash Watch: GE Ecomagining Weaker Smog Controls for Locomotives

We recently covered GE's new ads featuring Kevin Kline touting, among other things, GE's new Evolution diesel locomotive. We even suggested that they "demonstrate real progress." Alas, perhaps they only demonstrate real hype. We learn from the Wall Street Journal that GE has been fighting the Environmental Protection Agency to weaken proposed standards for soot and nitrogen oxides, that the so-called "green" Evolution engine is designed to meet less stringent 1997 regulations and its only green attribute is that it is more fuel-efficient. We were also surprised to learn that under those standards a locomotive emits as much pollution as 500 diesel trucks.

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, an environmental group in Washington, says: "It is the height of hypocrisy for GE to be spending money advertising so-called green locomotives while lobbying behind closed doors against important standards needed to protect our health from train emissions."

GE says its marketing is appropriate because the Evolution meets current standards and is more fuel-efficient than older models, and that the new standard requires "significantly high-risk technology breakthroughs." The competition and the engine makers association disagree: "Nobody likes to be regulated, but members in this marketplace are very progressive companies, and they realize that there's more that they can do to reduce emissions from their products." ::Wall Street Journal
thanks, Linton at Hugg!

UPDATE: GE says Wall Street Journal " report is a complete mischaracterization and has no merit."
GE says that "GE is in discussions to reduce emissions on locomotives by 65 percent. Our concerns are ensuring that we are in compliance with EPA standards over the life of the locomotive."

they have issued this press release in response to the Wall Street Journal:

We are having routine technical discussions with the EPA on how to achieve significant and sustainable emissions reductions as part of an upcoming notice of proposed rule making (NPRM). The rule will require reductions in both particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from new locomotives as well as requiring retrofits of some older locomotives. GE strongly supports this effort and agrees with the technical feasibility of nearly all of the points that will make up the NPRM.

We are continuing to discuss the appropriate new locomotive emission level for nitrogen oxides (NOx) in 2017. GE shares the EPA's goals for aggressively reducing NOx emissions. GE's discussion with EPA concerns the level that is technologically achievable and sustainable for the useful life of the locomotive. EPA has stated a 75% reduction in NOx is achievable and sustainable. GE has expressed the view that a 65% reduction is more technologically sustainable over the life of the locomotive.

We spend millions of dollars every year to explore all the technical options and have a long-standing cooperative relationship with EPA regarding locomotive technology issues. This is a good faith discussion about what the available technology can achieve and the best way to successfully reduce these emissions balanced with efficiency and carbon (CO2) emissions.

GE was the first to bring to market locomotives that met the EPA's January 2005 Tier II emissions standard. The Evolution Series locomotive platform disproved the belief that increased environmental controls could not be imposed without increasing fuel consumption. This technology resulted in the fastest adoption of reliable and environmentally sound locomotive technology. More than 1,500 Evolution units are in service today. The company also has a hybrid freight locomotive in development, with a prototype due later this year.

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