Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Groups want Biden to reduce shipping emissions in Virginia, U.S.

Transportation accounts for 28% of emissions in the U.S. and ships and boats produce 3% of greenhouse-gas emissions. Emissions for the sector declined between 1990 and 2020 but shot to record highs in 2021. (Adobe Stock)

WASHINGTON — Environmental groups want to reduce shipping emissions at ports in Virginia and nationwide, urging President Joe Biden to sign an executive order decarbonizing maritime shipping and offer recommendations on best practices.

International shipping accounts for 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions but the International Maritime Organization wants international shipping to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Antonio Santos, federal climate policy director for the nonprofit Pacific Environment, recommended having ships at anchor only use shore power.

“That they effectively not use their auxiliary engines, those diesel engines. That they’re plugged in, either to shore power,” Santos explained. “Shore power is the connections where ships can use onshore electrical power instead of their auxiliary engines.”

Other recommendations include establishing a goal-based fuel standard for ships using U.S. ports, and supporting shipbuilders and maritime stakeholders to build low- and zero-emission ships. Santos pointed out it could all be in place by 2040. The Biden administration has already begun work to decarbonize shipping no later than 2050 through the Ocean Climate Action Plan.

Technologies to decarbonize ships are already in the works, albeit at a much smaller scale. Famous boats such as the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls went electric in 2020 with little issue. Santos acknowledged full finds electrification will not the best way forward for cargo ships, noting other clean fuels will be sought out.

“Bigger ships, of course, because of the weight of the batteries, not a likely big player in the long-term solutions,” Santos observed. “Which is why they’re looking at some of these other fuel options like ammonia or hydrogen, whether that’s burned in an internal combustion engine or used in a fuel cell.”

Decarbonizing shipping can improve health outcomes in port communities. A National Institutes of Health report showed the highest air pollution concentrations were along major shipping routes. Other studies found 400,000 premature deaths per year worldwide are attributed to air pollution from shipping.

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