Ahh, you remember it, don't you? Sitting in the

back of your family's station wagon as a kid, your father pulls up to

the gas pump and a station attendant—an occupation about as extinct as

the dinosaurs—came running out with a rag in his hand, leaned into the

driver's window and said… Diesel or unleaded?

Those days are long gone. And I'm not just referring to the

attendant. Nowadays, at least in the U.S., you can expect to find three

things at a gas pump: self-serve, pay first, and unleaded gasoline


Misconceptions about diesel fuel being dirtier than unleaded gas

several years ago ultimately led to diesel's obsolescence in the more

environmentally progressive United States. Car companies began to

manufacture cars that, for the most part, ran on traditional gasoline.

In response, however, steps were taken to improve the cleanliness

of diesel and now major car companies have begun to sell diesel-powered

vehicles to consumers once again.

In the past, especially in the United States, diesel fuel was

considerably dirtier than unleaded gasoline. Vehicles in the United

States also tended to be built for traditional gasoline, with the

exception of large trucks, buses, and semis. In recent years, however,

steps have been taken to improve the cleanliness of diesel fuel through

regulation, and many companies have begun selling popular consumer cars

that run on diesel fuel.

One such company is Isuzu Motors, known for its popular 5-passenger

Ascender SUV, and two models of high-performing pick up trucks (the

i-290 and i-370). Isuzu's diesel engines have won a laundry list of

awards in past years including Truck of the Year by Motor Trend

Magazine, Executive Diesel Car of the Year 2002 by Diesel Car

Magazine (a publication in the U.K.), Germany's best small and compact

car of the Year 2001 by Mot Magazine (published in Germany), as well

as having been named multiple times by Ward's Communications of the

U.S. as one of the 10 Best Engines. In addition, Isuzu vehicles were

voted the top medium-duty truck brand six times in seven years by truck

dealers. Impressive, but not fully convinced that diesel's better? Keep


Diesel fuel actually burns more efficiently than gasoline, thus

having a better fuel economy—about 30% more efficient on average. Why?

Diesel is denser than its unleaded competitor. Proponents of

gasoline are quick to point out that diesel engines produce more

greenhouse emissions, which is true, emissions with diesel are about

15% higher than those of traditional unleaded gas due to higher

volumetric energy density. However, the increased fuel efficiency more

than offsets the higher percentage, so in the long run, diesels produce

less emissions— 15% more per gallon used, but a trip in the good ole

family car will use 30% less fuel to get to wherever you're going.

Granted, this wasn't the case with Dad's old wagon. Back then,

before the anti-diesel crusade, diesel engines were creating more

emissions because they simply weren't efficient. Now, with the modern

diesel engine achieving a 20- 40% better fuel economy, it's time to

give diesel a second look.

But that's not the only exciting news about diesel. Originally, the

diesel engine was created as a way to run vehicles using vegetable

oils. While farmers originally couldn't compete with big oil companies,

with gas prices soaring, there's been a renewed interest in alternative

fuel sources—and food-based diesel fuels can be produced quickly,

cheaply, and with the abundance of products grown in our very own

country. These hybrid diesels also known as biodiesel are

compatible with existing diesel engines and can also be made from waste

oils gathered from restaurants or homes—an alternative that serves

several ecological benefits at the same time.

Gina Sarento