The classic “chicken or the egg dilemma” is often used to talk about cause and effect. Although this question is usually posed as a philosophical examination of some obscure topic, we now have a clear case for true causality: port clean truck programs result in cleaner trucks at ports.
Last week, the Port of New Orleans joined the growing list of ports who have launched formal clean truck programs to encourage trucking companies to replace older, more polluting trucks with newer trucks with fewer emissions. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) supported the Port of New Orleans’ efforts to develop their “Clean Truck Replacement Incentive Program” (Clean TRIP), which will be funded from the EPA’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Program. The funding will assist 20 truck operators in replacing their dirtier diesel trucks by offering up to $35,000 or 50 percent of the cost of a 2012 or newer truck. In addition to the immediate opportunity to reduce emissions from the first 20 trucks, the port will also be able to incentivize more truck replacements in the future, by pursuing additional grants or developing other innovative funding approaches.
The Port of New Orleans joins the Port of Houston as the only two ports on the Gulf Coast with clean truck programs. The efforts in Houston have been successful (and cost-effective, according to a peer-reviewed scientific study conducted by EDF authors) in reducing smog-forming pollution and cancer-causing diesel particulates, but we estimate there are still more than 2,500 trucks operating at the Port of Houston that would benefit from replacement. Read More
Panama Canal — Photo by Antonio Zugaldia, from Flikr
Everything is bigger in Texas, they say. Now, with the expansion of the Panama Canal this summer, we may start to see bigger ships in some Texas ports, too. These bigger ships would represent more business for Texas, but there could be a downside. Since these ships have huge engines that emit dangerous pollutants, we could see – and breathe – dirtier air. That’s why it’s so important for us to carefully manage these changes.
In late June, the first post-Panamax ship traveled through the newly-expanded Panama Canal, signaling a new era for mega-containerships and other super-sized vessels that can carry up to three times as much cargo as before. (“Panamax” was the term for the Panama Canal Authority’s size limit for ships traveling through the canal, The new mega-ships are sometimes called “Neopanamax” vessels.)
The expansion of the Panama Canal means that the near monopoly held by west coast ports, like the Ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach and others, on container trade from Asia may be ending. Instead of offloading cargo in southern California and relying on trains and trucks to transport goods to inland regions in the U.S., shippers will now be able to offload containers from Asia at U.S. ports on the Gulf or East Coast — taking advantage of potentially lower shipping costs and improved economies of scale. Read More
(This post was written by Grace Tee Lewis, EDF’s Kravis Postdoctoral Science Fellow)
August in Texas is not for the weak of heart or lung.
As temperatures rise, so do levels of air pollutants such as ground-level ozone – better known as smog. For those with asthma, being outside on high ozone days can lead to asthma attacks. Children, older adults and people who work outside are the most susceptible.
In Texas, asthma affects roughly 1 in 13 adults and 1 in 11 children. In 2014, this represented 1.4 million Texans aged 18 years or older and 617,000 children according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Shore power is a promising alternative allows ships to plug into the local electricity grid and reduce harmful emissions.
For ports that commit to reduce emissions and improve air quality, figuring out the best way forward can be challenging – the sheer volume of information on the subject may be overwhelming if you don’t know where to get started.
Fortunately, research facilitated by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) can help ports and terminals get up to speed on the latest breakthroughs in emissions technologies and clean air strategies.
Two weeks ago, TRB held its Annual Meeting in Washington, DC and welcomed more than 13,000 of the world’s top transportation researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders. The conference highlighted some of the top trends in transportation, and shared leading research on topics including air quality modeling, emissions control technologies, and environmental policy reviews. Texas ports can learn much from the air quality ideas presented at TRB – whether from the peer-reviewed research or insights from experienced panelists.
By: Christina Wolfe, manager, air quality, port and freight facilities, and Kate Zerrenner, manager, energy-water initiatives
An oxymoron is “a combination of words that have opposite or very different meanings,” according to Merriam-Webster (a commonly given example is “jumbo shrimp”). Ports – with an immense amount of traffic and heavy cargo coming and going – have recently been equated with power plants in terms of air pollution. Some might suggest that the concept of a ‘sustainable port’ is impossible.
It’s not, actually.
Earlier this year, the first “zero-emissions terminal in the world” opened at a port in the Netherlands using equipment that releases no pollutants from a tailpipe and on-site wind energy for power demands. And closer to home, large ports in the U.S. have taken promising steps, like the Port of Seattle’s aggressive energy efficiency initiatives.
Texas ports have some work to do, both to keep up with strong economic growth (like the record year the Port of Houston is projecting) and because Texas already leads the country in climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions. But the good news is there is a way they could very quickly up their game: the use of renewable energy. And in the midst of historic climate talks in Paris, there is no better time for Texas ports to consider commonsense investments that safeguard both public health and the global climate.
Port Freeport Operations Manager, Jesse Hibbetts, provides a tour of Berth 7 at the Velasco Terminal.
This post first appeared on the EDF Climate Corps Blog.
This summer I had the opportunity to work with Port Freeport, a deep-water seaport in Freeport, Texas, on developing a new supply chain strategy from scratch. Currently, empty containers are trucked from Houston to Freeport for loading. Then, the filled containers are driven back to Houston completing the round-trip cycle. This long-haul covers 162.2 miles. Port Freeport’s new approach, which would reduce truck trips, emissions and costs, would issue a permit for overweight vehicles to move goods from industry to Port property. Once on site, these containers would be loaded onto a barge and shuttled to Houston. This process is more commonly referred to as short sea shipping or container-on-barge. Read More