We at EDF have written a lot about the need to transform the nation’s aging electricity system. Now, more than ever, we have to transition away from fossil fuel electricity to reduce our out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions. With renewables poised to make up a quarter of the world’s electricity mix by 2018, it appears we’re making steady progress toward a modern, clean energy grid.
But there’s another global energy system that’s often overlooked: the transportation system. An overwhelming majority of the world’s transportation infrastructure is powered by fossil fuels. Ordinary passenger vehicles, short and long-haul trucks, freight rail, and large cargo ships are all fueled by petroleum. And unlike the grid, we’re still far from transitioning to a clean alternative.
EDF has spearheaded a number of initiatives to help reduce the environmental impact of transportation. Last month, we released a request for proposals for a marine port environmental recognition program. The program will help establish performance benchmarks for ports, so that we can identify and acknowledge those ports making strides toward reducing emissions and improving air quality. EDF is also part of the brain trust of organizations, such as the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board, working to understand the best practices to modernize the global transportation system and reduce transportation’s environmental footprint.
But there’s plenty more work to do. Achieving marked improvement in environmental performance from the global transportations system is a daunting task – all stakeholders need to be at the table. That’s why the City of Irving, located just outside Dallas, invites a prestigious group of national and international thought leaders and government officials for the Annual Transportation & Infrastructure Summit each year. Irving co-hosts the summit with dozens of other major transportation stakeholders. By bringing together leading experts on transportation issues, the summit’s hosts hope to reveal innovative solutions to bolster the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure and drive growth in the future.
This year, the summit covered a diverse set of international transportation topics, including transportation finance, rail, roadways, water infrastructure, ports, aviation and more. I attended the summit to meet with international transportation stakeholders and be a voice for what EDF’s been doing to reduce the environmental impact of transportation. I spoke on a panel addressing what’s been termed as “the commerce of transportation” and described how EDF is supporting efforts to improve efficiency across supply chains by employing a few basic principles, including:
- Improving the Hot-Spots within your supply chain
- Choosing the most carbon-efficient mode possible
- Collaborating with other shippers and suppliers
- Getting the most out of each move
- Redesigning your own network for efficiency
More about the principles are outlined in EDF’s Smart Moves Report released earlier this year.
What were some of the coolest things I learned at the summit? There are plans for a bullet train between Dallas and Houston by 2020. With 100,000 people traveling between the two cities every day, it’s hard to believe that this idea wasn’t developed sooner.
Also, a company called Grid Logistics introduced a revolutionary idea to handle containers at ports using automated technology that could dramatically reduce the footprint of ports in both size and emissions.
Summits like this one in Irving offer the promise of inventive solutions and encouragement for those of us working collaboratively to improve the environmental impact of the world’s transportation systems. I was happy to be a part of this year’s summit. Going forward, I’ll continue working with international transportation stakeholders to champion EDF’s innovative ideas to reduce the environmental impact of the global supply chain.