Author Archives: Jason Mathers

Let's Stop Pitting In-Store vs. Online Shopping: Both Need to Up Their Sustainability

We all like clear-cut, simple, black and white answers. But the world, as you well know, is a really complex place. Yet despite this general acknowledgment of complexity, we still get caught-up in simplified debates: paper vs plastic; cloth vs disposable diapers; and now shopping online vs shopping at the store.

This is not a cage match. The fact of the matter is that both shopping online and shopping at stores are here to stay. And this is a good thing. We now have more choices. Citizens and companies can leverage these choices to minimize their environmental foot print.

Into the debate mindset, Simon Property Group released an assessment, Think Before You Click: Does Shopping Behavior Impact Sustainability? Simon is a leading real estate company that owns a number of malls. It also has been a host company for EDF Climate Corps.

The paper is a valuable because it sheds light on one way people shop: buying multiple items at once and combining the shopping trip with other activities. It concludes that — in the specific scenario Simon created — shopping at the store has a lower environmental impact.

To me, the conclusion is the least insightful aspect of the study. It is not surprising that a large owner of malls would choose a scenario that highlights the attributes of shopping at malls compared to shopping online. What is most insightful to me is the attributes that determine the environmental impact.

Global shopping cartDistance from a retail location, distance and method of online delivery, likelihood of returns, building energy use and packaging were all attributes that were examined in the Simon paper. These attributes were also the factors used in the most authoritative research I have yet read on the topic, which came from the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. The Simon paper went one attribute further, though.

Key to the findings of the Simon paper was the fact that its scenario includes the purchase of four items. It also made the assumption that buying these online would result in four distinct deliveries. Given the diversity of items purchased, this certainly could be the case. It however does not need to be.

The fact is there are many opportunities to reduce the environmental impact associated with goods purchased online. There are also many opportunities to reduce the environmental impact associated with goods purchased at stores. It also must be noted that transportation and packaging are but two of the numerous aspects of product lifecycle impact.

What are these opportunities?

For companies that sell online, they can:

  1. Provide incentives for customers to choose less impactful delivery options. “Free” shipping is here to stay, of course. Companies could provide reward points or other inducements for customers to choose the four to five day option instead of the two-day or overnight.
  2. Provide incentives for customers to return more sparingly. As much as a third of online purchases are returned. The environmental impact associated with the returns was a significant factor in the Simon scenario and those examined by MIT. Again, there is an opportunity here for reward points or other inducements.
  3. Get serious about tackling excessive packaging. As the New York Times recently reported, “4 million tons of containerboard were produced in 2014 in the United States, with e-commerce companies among the fastest-growing users.” Let’s deal with this.

For companies that set-up physical stores:

  1. Invest in increasing public transportation options for your locations.
  2. Increase the energy efficiency of your operations. Upgrading lighting and HVAC systems are a good place to start. Join the many other retailers hosting EDF Climate Corps fellows to undertake this type of work.
  3. Explore on-sight generation of renewable energy. An apt example here is how Simon worked with EDF Climate Corps in 2015.

Both online and bricks and mortar retailers have ample opportunities to reduce the impact of the goods moving into their warehouses and stores. Retailers and their suppliers should:

  1. Get the most out of every move. Combine and adapt packaging to maximize cube utilization.  A fuller move is a greener, as demonstrated by Walmart, Kraft and others.
  2. Choose the most carbon-efficient transport mode. Ocean Spray Cranberries and many others are cutting carbon and costs with this approach.
  3. Collaborate with other freight shippers. Colgate, Kimberly Clark and CVS are showing the way here.

The EDF Green Freight Handbook is a solid resource for companies needed to get a start on these types of actions.

The world is complex, which is good news because this complexity gives us choices. I’m choosing to focus on how to manage these complexities to improve our environment and economy. I’d love to have you join me; the only requirement is to leave the online vs. in-store mind-set at the door.

This post originally appeared on our EDF+Business blog.

Posted in News| Comments are closed

Go Farther, Faster to Cut Truck Pollution

The U.S. has put in place well-designed policies to cut climate pollution, and, with adopted and proposed policies, the nation’s 2025 climate reduction goals are within reach.  However, we are not there yet, and important work remains.

Big trucks have a critical contribution to make in cutting emissions now and well into the future. Cost-effective technologies are available to significantly reduce fuel use. Conversely, if we don’t take common sense steps today to cut climate-destabilizing emissions from this sector, climate emissions are projected to rise by approximately 15 percent by 2040. This is particularly problematic when you consider that the nation must reduce carbon emissions by at least 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 to prevent severe, potentially catastrophic, levels of climate change. Without further action to cut emissions from heavy-trucks, the sector would consume nearly 40 percent of our national 2050 emissions budget – a level that is clearly not sustainable.

Pepsi truck

600-02056018

The good news is that there is much that can be done to reduce emissions from trucks while also saving money; this year we have a unique opportunity to get started. As EPA Administrator McCarthy recently noted, finalizing new greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for heavy-duty vehicles is a priority in 2016.

Given the combination of environmental and economic benefits that strong GHG standards will provide, many leading companies have already shown public support. PepsiCo and Walmart – two of the largest trucking fleets in the U.S. — support strong standards. General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, IKEA and many other companies that rely on trucking support strong standards. Innovative manufacturers support strong standards.

So, where do we go from here?

The draft proposal issued jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) in June 2015 is a good step, particularly because it maintains a sound, enforceable structure of separate engine and vehicle standards. However, the proposal leaves significant emission reductions on the table, specifically in its engine standard.

The first generation of heavy truck fuel efficiency standards required engines to reduce fuel use and emissions by 6 percent from 2010 to 2017, or roughly 1 percent per year. The current draft would require reductions of only 4.2 percent from 2017 through 2030. Nearly all of this progress occurs between 2021 and 2024. Between 2025 and 2030 these standards increase by only 0.5 percent.  The hill we need to climb to achieve our 2050 emissions goals is steep enough without losing critical time to such nominal progress.

We can do more.

  • Finalizing stronger standards today will deliver more than just near-term emissions reductions. Trucks are long-lived assets. Some trucks manufactured in 2025 will still be on the road well into the middle of this century. The trucks we put on the road in 2030 will impact our ability to meet 2050 targets – and to avoid catastrophic climate change.
  • Stronger standards also enable a virtuous cycle of improvement. A higher bar for these next standards will drive additional investments in research and development and expedite market entry of the next generation of solutions. This, in turn, drives the innovation we will need to enable this sector to contribute to achieving our 2050 targets. All while creating an annual economic benefit of $50 billion dollars.

The savings potential we are seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg. As an executive with the Volvo Group – a leading global producer of heavy-trucks — recently highlighted, “there are no real limits” to our technical ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trucks.  Our limitations are societal choices.

When it comes to trucks, we know that much greater emission savings than have been proposed are eminently reasonable. We know more protective standards are readily within reach – one of the largest truck makers created a truck that gets 12.2 MPG and another leading manufacturer and engine company teamed-up to create a 10.7 MPG truck.

These breakthroughs and others have come through the Department of Energy’s SuperTruck program — a leading public-private partnership that has delivered impressive results over the past decade and is investing another $80 million to develop more fuel saving solutions. Included among its current research investments are a medium-duty plug-in hybrid vehicle powertrain that reduces fuel consumption by 50 percent; a class 6 plug in hybrid delivery truck that reduces fuel consumption by 50 percent; and a class 6 delivery truck with a scalable, innovative, lightweight, low-cost, and commercially-viable plug-in electric drive system that improves fuel economy by 100 percent.

Here’s hoping the EPA and DOT, recognizing the clear potential of existing and emerging technology, will finalize the protective standards we need to cut truck pollution farther, faster, strengthen our economy and achieve U.S. climate goals.

This post originally appeared on our EDF+Business blog.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Partners for Change, Policy| Comments are closed

More Efficient Trucks Will Improve the Bottom Line

Here in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation will unveil new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for big trucks soon, according to the New York Times. At first glance, many companies might conclude that these new polices do not impact them. They’d be mistaken.

In fact, they would be overlooking an enormous opportunity to cut costs while delivering real-world progress on sustainability.

The fact is that nearly every company in the United States is reliant on heavy trucks, which move 70% of U.S. freight. Brands and manufacturers use trucks to bring in supplies and ship out final products. Retailers and grocers count on trucks to keep the shelves stocked. Technology companies need trucks to deliver the hardware that powers their online services. Even Major League Baseball has turned its dependence on trucking into a quasi-holiday.

More efficient trucks matter to all business because they will cut supply chain costs.

Last year, American businesses spent $657 billion dollars on trucking services. A lot of that money went to pay for fuel – the top cost for trucking, accounting for nearly 40% of all costs.

EDF and Ceres teamed up with MJ Bradley and Associates to assess how strong heavy truck fuel efficiency standards would benefit businesses that rely on trucking. In an update of analysis originally produced last year, we found that companies could see freight rates fall nearly 7% as owners of tractor-trailer units see their costs fall by $0.21/mile. Given that class 8 trucks logged nearly 170 billion miles last year, that $0.21 per mile savings, for example, equates to $34 billion dollars less in annual freight costs.

The magnitude of the savings in this update was consistent with our findings from last year; however, there are important changes in the underlying cost structure. In this new analysis we modeled significantly lower future U.S. diesel prices, in light of new fuel cost projections by the Energy Information Administration. We also updated the cost of more efficient equipment based on recent analysisby the International Council on Clean Transportation.

These savings add up for large shippers. A big consumer goods company, for example, could save over $10 million a year in 2030 by using trucking companies with newer trucks. As an added kicker, these trucks also would help meet the supply chain sustainability targets that leading brands are increasingly setting.

So, while your company may not own or make big trucks, cleaner, more efficient trucks hold a big opportunity for its triple bottom line.

This post originally appeared on our EDF + Business Blog.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions| Comments are closed

Fewer emissions from trucks equals more money in your pocket. Here's why.

Source: Flickr/raymondclarkeimages

Like most Americans, I’ve bought a few things over the past week: a few shrubs to plant in the backyard, brake cables for my bike and some odds and ends for the new baby we’re expecting in a few weeks.

Each of these items got most of the way to me by riding in the back of a diesel-guzzling tractor-trailer.

Trucks are the main way goods move to market in our country today; 69 percent of freight was carried this way in 2014.  Trucking dominates because it is fast, safe, reliable and affordable.

What it’s not – yet – is very fuel-efficient.

The average tractor trailer truck today will burn 20,000 gallons of diesel this year alone – the same volume of fuel used by 50 new passenger cars. Fuel is a top cost for trucking and we pay for it through our everyday purchases.

At the same time, heavy-duty trucks – while making up only 4 percent of registered vehicles – account for 25 percent of vehicle fuel use.

This is why the Obama administration, with important business support, is taking action to tighten fuel-efficiency for heavy-duty vehicles in standards expected to be proposed in the next month.

Trucks spend $135B per year on fuel

The average United States household pays more than $1,100 a year to fuel heavy trucks. That is a lot of money for my family, especially with a second college fund now needed, and it probably is a fair amount for your family, too.

Across our country, the total financial bill exceeds $135 billion annually – and that is in addition to a significant and growing environmental cost.

Every year, our nation’s fleet of big trucks emits the same amount of carbon dioxide as do 130 coal plants. Climate pollution from these trucks is growing fast.

A recent assessment from the U.S. Energy Information Agency projected that greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks will increase more than any other single end-use source by 2040.

This is because increased demand for trucking services is projected to greatly exceed improvements in fuel efficiency.  Without action, producing and burning fuel in these trucks will account for nearly 30 percent of transportation related greenhouse gas emissions in 2040.

$400 in annual household savings

President Obama’s call in early 2014 for a new round of fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for our nation’s biggest trucks is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dramatically alter course.

We have the technology today to cost-effectively cut fuel consumption by 40 percent and a regulatory framework that is already producing impressive results. A recent assessmentby the International Council on Clean Transportation found that advanced efficiency technologies, now emerging in the marketplace, can double heavy truck fuel economy with payback periods of 18 months or less in the 2025 to 2030 time frame.

Households and businesses will immediately benefit from the new truck efficiency standards.

U.S. households, alone, stand to save more than $400 a yearas the fuel efficiency solutions are scaled up. This will produce an annual economic benefit of $50 billion dollars.

Businesses that rely on trucks to bring their products to market, meanwhile, could see freight costs drop by as much as 7 percent.

The standards will also avoid 270 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, cut emissions of criteria pollutants and air toxics from fuel production and combustion, and reduce oil consumption by 1.4 million barrels a day – or more than we import from Saudi Arabia each year.

The protective standards make sense for consumers, families, businesses, trucking companies and the Earth. Sounds like a win to me.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Greenhouse Gas Emissions| Comments are closed

Better Fuel Efficiency for Heavy Duty Trucks — A Target Worth Setting

1200px-Kenworth_truck

"Kenworth truck" by Lisa M. Macias, U.S. Air Force via Wikipedia

A pair of critical analyses were just released that, together, make clear the need for a strong second generation heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standard.

The first piece is the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) preliminary Annual Energy Outlook for 2015. I went right to the projection of fuel efficiency for new heavy trucks in 2020, which is 7.0 miles per gallon, and compared that to the projection for 2030, which is 7.2 miles per gallon. A three percent increase in efficiency for a decade is not too impressive.

As a result of this lack of projected progress on fuel efficiency and other factors, EIA expects that greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks will increase more than any other single end-use source by 2040 – an additional 120 million metric tons a year.

The other recent analysis is from The International Council on Clean Transportation. It released two papers on heavy truck fuel efficiency: one reviewed the potential of current and emerging efficiency technology; the other examined the cost effectiveness of these technologies.

Among the group’s findings are:

  • Already available tractor-trailer technologies can achieve 9 miles per gallon, deliver payback periods of less than a year, and be widely deployed in the 2020 to 2025 time frame.
  • Advanced efficiency technologies, now emerging in the marketplace, can double fuel economy to 11 to 12 miles per gallon, with payback periods of 18 months or less in the 2025 to 2030 time frame.
  • Diverse technology approaches – meaning technology packages with differing contributions from aerodynamic, engine, and other technologies – can achieve similar efficiency results.
  • Even under very conservative assumptions — fuel prices remaining as low as $3.10 per gallon diesel, higher technology costs, and a high discount rate of 10 percent — the most advanced technology packages have payback periods of only 1.4 to 2.2 years.
  • Typical first owners of tractor-trailers with efficiency technology packages up to 9 miles per gallon would see fuel savings 3 to 9 times greater than the upfront technology cost over the period of ownership.

ICCT’s findings demonstrate that we have the technology to cost-effectively cut truck fuel consumption in half compared to 2010 levels. EIA’s projections demonstrate that, without well designed performance-based standards, truck manufacturers are unlikely to deploy these highly cost-effective solutions.

There is good news in EIA’s report, too. The 7.0 miles per gallon in 2020 is up from 6.0 miles per gallon in 2012. The increase can be attributed to the first round of Heavy Truck Fuel Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Standards set by President Obama in 2011.

We know that well-designed fuel efficiency standards work because we are seeing it in the market today. For the second generation standards that will be announced this spring, we urge the administration to incentivize the full scale deployment of the advanced technologies highlighted in the ICCT analysis.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions| Read 1 Response

Let There Be No Doubt: We Can Cut Truck Emissions & Fuel Use Today

(This post originally appeared on our EDF+Business blog)

The can-do spirit of American automotive engineers has been on full display over the past few weeks, as truck manufacturers unveil innovation after innovation to boost the efficiency of heavy trucks that move companies' freight cross-country.

It is crystal clear that we possess— today— the know-how to dramatically cut fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks. Moreover, we can do this while saving consumers hundreds of dollars annually and giving trucking companies the high-quality, affordable equipment they require.

DTNA Super Truck HighSome of the recently-announced advances include:

All of these fuel-saving solutions are available today thanks to the acumen of engineers at these leading manufacturers. The first round of well-designed federal fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards are also driving innovations like these to the market.

Even so, the strides we are making today should only be the beginning.

Daimler's Super Truck Doubles Efficiency

The team at Daimler Trucks North America provided the best example yet of our future potential with its entry in the Department of Energy Super Truck program. DTNA announced its team has “achieved 115 percent freight efficiency improvement, surpassing the Department of Energy program’s goal of 50 percent improvement.” Its truck registered 12.2 mpg recently – a leap above the 6 MPG typical of pre-2014 trucks.

Improvements where made across the platform, including electrified auxiliaries, controlled power steering and air systems, active aerodynamics, a long-haul hybrid system, and trailer solar panels. Engine efficiency advancements were particularly noteworthy – given the permanence of such solutions.  The Detroit Diesel engine reported a 50.2 percent engine brake thermal efficiency which was combined with further improvements from engine downspeeding and the use of a waste-heat recovery system.

Daimler’s fantastic results demonstrate that – when given a goal anchored in science, economics and innovation – our engineers can deliver phenomenal results.    Daimler should now lead the way in driving these solutions to national and global scale.

Setting the Bar Higher on Fuel Efficiency and Emissions

The time has come to give our engineers a new goal.

EDF is calling on the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation to set new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks that cut fuel consumption by 40 percent in 2025 compared to 2010.  This equates to an average of 10.7 mpg for new tractor-trailer trucks.

President Obama has called for new standards. These are expected to be announced late spring and were sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review this past week.

The first generation standards have created a strong, industry-supported foundation on which the coming standards can be built. These standards push improvements in all aspects of trucks through complementary engine and vehicle standards.  In fact, Daimler – a leading manufacturer of heavy trucks with the engineering prowess to set the high bar of 12.2 mpg for the Super Truck program – has recognized these standards as “very good examples of regulations that work well.”

We Have The Technology

Let there be no doubt that if we set a bold goal for 2025 we will meet it:

Setting a bold goal will help us take these technologies from the test track to the highway over the next decade, helping companies reduce both their costs and carbon risks, while delivering benefits for communities' air quality and the climate.

Posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy| Comments are closed
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