With US petrol prices shooting to record levels, government energy policy should actively encourage the mileage and emissions benefits made possible by diesel technology, according to Navistar International’s chief executive officer.

Speaking before the Executives Club of Chicago, Dan Ustian, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, cited diesel’s advantages on both economy and global warming, and called it “the fuel of the future.”

“We deliberately chose diesel over gasoline in the mid-1980s as the technology for the engines, trucks and school buses we produce,” Ustian said. “Our reasons for that decision keep looking better and better.” He cited diesel as “the technology platform” for the company’s plan to achieve $US15 billion in revenues during the current economic cycle.

Ustian noted that in addition to diesel engines’ advantages in durability, torque and safety, they are inherently more efficient than petrol, offering 25 to 60% better mileage, depending on the application. Diesel engines’ greater efficiency also means they emit less carbon dioxide than petrol engines, the greenhouse gas considered chiefly responsible for global warming.

In addition, Ustian said, emissions of particulate matter have been reduced to near zero by the company’s so-called International Green Diesel Technology, that combines efficient, high-technology engines, advanced after treatment, and the new ultra-low-sulphur diesel fuel that is mandated by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

In 2001, International became the first company certified by federal and California regulators as meeting EPA’s 2007 engine standards for particulate matter and hydrocarbon emissions six years ahead of the regulatory deadline. By 2006, 80 to 95% of US on-highway diesel fuel will meet the tough EPA standard of 15 parts per million, Ustian noted.

“By 2010, diesel will be equal to or better than gasoline in every key category of emissions,” Ustian said. He noted that today’s emissions are already so low that a white handkerchief held to the tailpipe of an operating school bus with the company’s green technology invariably comes away clean and odourless.

Citing diesel’s benefits to consumers, businesses and the environment, Ustian advocated increased use of diesel as a desirable goal of US national energy policy.

“As a nation, we can reduce our use of imported oil, improve our mileage and reduce CO2 emissions if we make greater use of advanced diesel technology,” Ustian said. “For all these reasons, government policy should encourage consumers to make greater use of advanced diesel-powered vehicles.”