Monthly Archives: October 2012

Making The Case For Common Environmental Performance Metrics At Our Nation’s Ports

Update- See the reports from the workshop here.

Many of our nation’s ports are in highly congested areas that don’t meet federal air quality standards. While opportunities abound for new, creative ways of reducing pollution and protecting public health in these port communities, one promising way includes working toward better measurement of activity, equipment, and emissions. Through goal-setting, benchmarking and periodic evaluation, ports become better equipped to make significant strides in their emissions reduction efforts.

Along those lines, EDF co-sponsored a workshop this month with the American Association of Port Authorities to engage and share best practices with those seeking ways to reduce port emissions through the development of common environment performance metrics. While some ports exercise certain metrics, there is room for improvement in terms of a holistic and standardized metrics system, especially as port customers increasingly request adoption of such metrics to improve port operational efficiencies.

In addition to reducing criteria pollutant emissions and protecting public health, competitive global businesses, port authorities and communities, environmentalists and other stakeholders consider better measurement a worthy undertaking because these efforts also help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and improve supply chain sustainability; reduce costs and transit times for shippers and carriers; and enable ports to better accommodate increases in throughput through efficiency and technology improvements.

Key Metrics
A few of the key metrics that EDF would like to see implemented at ports involve truck registries, ship indices, and more SmartWay participation.

  • Truck registries provide a foundation for better tracking of port dray operations. At our workshop, we discovered that the Intermodal Association of North America (IANA) offers – for free – a tool that assists ports in tracking mandated or voluntary compliance with various Clean Truck Programs. IANA’s Intermodal Tractor Registry provides a registration point for UIIA Licensed Motor Carriers to provide tractor/truck information on behalf of their company drivers or owner operators. Currently, the Registry houses more than 200,000 drayage tractors, representing nearly 3,000 motor carriers.
  • An Environmental Ship Index (ESI) is a scoring system for assessing a ship’s emissions performance. As businesses continue to implement corporate sustainability goals, the transportation sector becomes an opportunity to secure emissions reductions. Therefore, ships with less polluting engines get increasing attention from those looking to reduce emissions.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay Transport Partnership helps freight companies improve fuel efficiency, increase environmental performance, and increase supply chain sustainability. During our workshop, EPA representatives outlined the value of SmartWay participation at ports, stating that the established program is becoming the industry standard. They also discussed how the innovative strategy addresses marketplace needs and challenges through voluntary and market-based incentives, and a simple, no-cost participation process.

Characteristics of Useful Metrics
Not all metrics are created equal. The best environmental performance metrics for ports have common characteristics as they:

  • Promote internal and external transparency;
  • Show return on investment for operational/technology investments;
  • Include some degree of auditing/validation;
  • Are standardized within industry with a broad level of acceptance;
  • Level the playing field when it comes to evaluating environmental performance;
  • Complement existing efforts such as SmartWay, clean truck programs, emissions inventories, ECA/fuel switching, and clean air strategies; and
  • Include and benefit shippers, carriers, MTOs, community and other port stakeholders.

We were encouraged by the level of engagement at this month’s workshop and look forward to future collaborative efforts toward development of common and transparent environment performance metrics, as they will certainly play a crucial role in reducing port emissions.


Posted in GHGs, Ports, SmartWay| Comments closed

Natural Gas: A Question Of Sustainability

Today there are around 45,000 shale gas wells operating in the United States – triple the number in 2005 – and as a result, people are rightfully concerned about the extent of the shale boom’s potential damage to the environment.

The issue became the focal point of discussion this month in “Can Natural Gas Be Sustainable?,” a five-person panel presentation at the second annual SXSW Eco conference in Austin. As part of the panel, we discussed how stronger standards and employing best practices could minimize impacts of increased natural gas production in the wake of growing public concern about the health and environmental impacts of drilling.

Attendees of SXSW Eco represented a broad swath of perspectives, ranging from those who were against any natural gas development to those who wanted to see much more natural gas development. One attendee even criticized the title of the panel, presenting the position that developing any non-renewable resource is inherently not sustainable.

As for the sustainability question, one thing is clear: the natural gas industry has a lot of opportunity for improvement, and there is mounting public pressure to address environmental concerns. Nearly 61 percent of Americans have negative views about the oil and gas industry – higher than any other industry (David Blackmon, from FTI Consulting, actually joked that this was an improvement!)

As part of the discussion, I spoke about the many environmental and health impacts associated with natural gas development. Construction and drilling equipment can degrade local air quality with smog-forming pollutants and air toxics (Example: activities at the Barnett Shale in Texas).  I also spoke about the implications of faulty well construction as one of the major causes of natural gas leakage, and emphasized that while natural gas is touted as a low-carbon fuel source, leaks from the production, distribution, and use of natural gas could undermine the greenhouse gas advantage combusted natural gas has over coal.

EDF is working hard to address the key problem areas associated with natural gas development: exposure to toxic chemicals and waste products; faulty well construction and design; climate impacts from methane leakage; local and regional air pollution; and land use and community impacts. Our team is engaging with community, government and industry stakeholders to help identify ways to minimize both human health and environmental risk, including:

  • Comprehensive disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals
  • Modernization of rules for well construction and operation
  • Systems-based management of wastes and water
  • State and national standards for improving air quality and reducing climate impacts
  • Minimization of land use and community impacts from natural gas development

Fellow SXSW Panelists

Other speakers presented varying perspectives on natural gas issues. Chris Helman, Associate Editor of Forbes magazine, moderated the panel and emphasized the public interest on the topic, as well as the contribution of natural gas to the country’s energy portfolio.

George Peridas, a scientist from NRDC, prefaced his comments by saying, “We have a lot of work to do before we can call natural gas clean.” Peridas gave examples of numerous exemptions given the natural gas industry under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. As well, those tasked with enforcing the state natural gas regulations that currently exist lack the ability to go out, fully inspect and enforce those standards. The result, he said, was that “industry is a self-policing entity right now.”

Much of his policy work focuses on climate change and correspondingly, Peridas said that natural gas could help with climate change and air quality when compared to coal. “The key is that gas needs to displace dirtier fuels,” he said. “A bridge is not the right frame of mind, and we cannot afford to treat gas as an abundant resource. We need to address its impacts now.”

Some of the solutions Peridas proposed included: designation of “off-limits” areas that provide fresh water resources or wildlife/conservation value; stopping those leaks that waste methane and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions; development of a comprehensive guide for how to drill safely (e.g., proper cement jobs at well sites); repealing the outrageous exemptions at the federal level that industry currently enjoys; focusing on measures and policies that promote solutions (e.g., solar energy); and ensuring that communities have a say in whether drilling proceeds in their areas.

Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, a nun with Congregation Of The Sisters Of Charity Of The Incarnate Word, and community advocate for the Eagle Ford Shale, agreed strongly with co-panelist George Peridas and his push for more local regulations. She told the story of citizens in small, rural Texas towns being strongly impacted by the Eagle Ford shale, and even used the phrase “merciless exploitation” to describe her own such experience.

Sister Elizabeth asked the rhetorical question: “Are we counting our natural gas clean energy chickens before they hatch?” She then emphasized that society must consider all of the activities required to produce natural gas, including activities she has observed in the Eagle Ford Shale: trucks and heavy equipment; travel trailers for workers; transporting of sand and chemicals, fracking equipment, and toxic waste (produced during operations); construction of huge batteries and tanks; rigs operating 24 hours a day; loud compressor stations; damage to land requiring clean up; and more.

David Blackmon, managing director at FTI Consulting, represented industry’s point of view, which touts the “reality that over half of our electricity generating capacity is natural gas.” The demand for natural gas includes backing up intermittent supply from solar and wind power. He said that natural gas was one of the only power sources that could be “cycled up” in a matter of minutes and that coal made this process more expensive.

Blackmon said that the key to making natural gas sustainable was ensuring public trust; trust that it is being appropriately regulated at federal, state and local levels. “I absolutely agree that there are not enough inspectors in the Texas Railroad Commission to regulate it,” he said. “The good news is that most companies in the industry recognize the need for public trust and are working towards that.”

Posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Clean Air Act, Natural gas| 2 Responses, comments now closed

How To Stay Clean In A Dirty World: A Vision For A Smarter, Healthier Supply Chain

Most large corporations know that their supply chains are now visible. When a factory explosion in China impacts parts shipments to Apple in the United States, for example, it makes the news. Also, as consumers become more informed, potential for brand loyalty increases for those organizations reducing their harmful emissions and their carbon footprints through more efficient, money-saving supply chain management.

Bottom line? Staying clean is not only healthier, it’s smarter for business. Earlier this week at a Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals conference, I explained more about this concept and suggested steps toward improving goods movement operations.

Why It Matters

Freight emissions are growing rapidly.

Freight transport is the single largest source of corporate carbon emissions, accounting for 15 percent of all emissions. In the U.S. alone, emissions from freight have been projected to increase 74 percent from 2005 to 2035. China is expected to increase its use of freight transportation fuels by 4.5 percent per year from 2008 to 2035. Over the coming decades, freight transport will be among the fastest-growing source of emissions, projected to increase 40 percent globally.

Retailers and other manufacturers exercise significant control over the environmental footprint of supply chain logistics operations. Their decisions on where products are made and stored, how they are designed and packaged, and how much time is allotted for transit have a tremendous impact on carbon and other air pollutants and cost efficiency.

These shippers have the most to gain from an increasingly cleaner and cost-efficient freight system and they can reap the greatest financial rewards from increasing efficiency. On top of that, public perception improves from an organizational “good environmental steward” image, increasing the brand loyalty odds in your favor.

Five Principles For Improving Supply Chain Efficiency And Sustainability 

EDF created five principles shippers can follow to enable a less polluting, more carbon-efficient freight supply chain. These are based on documented case studies in our Smart Moves report, which shows how new technology and thinking are unlocking a raft of previously unattainable economic and environmental efficiencies in the vast commercial shipping industry.

  1. Support “Hot Spot” Clean Up. Older diesel equipment without the most modern emission controls release emissions that are hazardous to human health. In fact, the World Health Organization recently declared that diesel emissions can cause cancer in humans. People who live or work near logistics hubs, such as ports and rail yards are exposed to higher levels of these emissions, and are thus at higher risk for harmful health outcomes. As these emissions are generated by the demand for freight, shippers are increasingly being held responsible for cleaning-up “hot spots” of diesel pollution. One way for shippers to make a difference is to support the adoption of cleaner equipment in these hot spots.
  2.  Choose the most carbon-efficient mode possible.  Different modes of transportation emit different amounts of carbon per ton-mile. Planes, for instance, emit 47 times more than container ships, and trucks emit six times more than trains. Clearly differentiating cargo that needs to be expedited from that which doesn’t is step one in a carbon-efficient supply chain.
  3. Collaborate with other shippers. Are there opportunities to merge your warehouses and distribution assets with other companies? Ship products directly to the client and avoid warehousing altogether? Match “back-haul” lanes with other shippers to improve efficiency? All of these strategies are being used successfully in today’s retail industry.
  4. Redesign your own network for efficiency. New logistics tools can help to optimize warehouse locations, shipping routes, and modal connections.
  5. Get the most out of each move. Set goals for trailer utilization, look for new ways to combine loads, and use the best new software to optimize orders. Redesigning and consolidating packaging can also increase utilization while decreasing damage.

Increasing Sustainability While Cutting Costs

In the near term, the principles outlined above have significant cost and emissions reduction potential. Collaboration alone has been projected to be able to cut emissions 30 percent while reducing costs by 25 percent. Mode shifting and improved container utilization combined can cut tens of millions of metric tons of emissions from the U.S. freight system each year.

EDF believes that it is vital for shippers to lead the way to freight sustainability. A key way to participate is by adopting freight-specific goals as part of an organization’s sustainability objectives. Here’s a suggestion: Sit down with your logistics team and explore the possibilities:

  • Can you improve carbon-efficiency by ton-mile by 25 percent over the next five years?
  • Can you double or triple the percentage of your goods that use intermodal transit?
  • Are you able to work with your partners in ports to support that rapid turnover of heavy-polluting trucks and other equipment?

The dramatic growth in goods movement clearly presents major challenges in efforts to minimize the effects of global climate change and lessen widespread harm to public health. However, it is possible to significantly reduce freight emissions from today’s levels, while continuing to grow our economy while improving the cost-efficiency of freight transport.

Posted in Air Pollution, GHGs, Goods Movement| Comments closed
  • About This Blog

    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

    Follow @EDFtx

  • Categories

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • Featured authors

    Ramon AlvarezRamon Alvarez
    Senior Scientist

    Elena Craft
    Health Scientist

    Jim Marston
    Vice President, US Climate and Energy Program

    Marita Mirzatuny
    Project Manager

    Marcelo Norsworthy
    Transportation Research Analyst

    Kate Zerrenner
    Project Manager

  • Twitter activity