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Governments around the world have been cracking down on emissions from cars in recent years trying to reduce noxious and greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, even if all the cars on the planet were completely eliminated from the roads, less than 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and far less than that of other pollutants, would be affected.

As trade has been globalized over the last several decades, most manufacturing has been moved to "low cost" countries in Asia, particularly China. That means goods have to be moved over long distances across the world's oceans. This happens with huge container ships, and there are about 90,000 such ships worldwide. New research indicates that each of the biggest ships emit as much as 50 million cars. That means the 15 largest ships combined may be emitting more than all the world's car put together. Part of the problem is that ships typically run on high sulfur bunker fuel oil.

Some 70 percent of shipping emissions are generated within 250 miles of the world's coastlines. The U.S. government has announced its intent to impose a 230-mile low emissions shipping buffer zone around U.S. coasts. Governments need to seriously attack shipping emissions in addition to ground transportation if they really want to make a dent in greenhouse gases levels.

[Source: The Guardian]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hallelujah !

      Within a blink of an eye - without reflection for a fragment of a second -
      we rejoice in the good news:

      Now we're not guilty !
      Now we can use our Gas-Guzzlers as we please !

      God Help us...
        • 6 Years Ago
        *yawn* - really , so unexpected feedback .. (*not*)

        Just where do you read I say other polluting activities are free from responsibility ?

        [QUOTE ="EV-1"] :

        "Now we're not guilty !"


        This forum is about cars - not about evey other aspect of environmental issues !
        And the Auto Industry certainly have a LOT to account for !!!!!!
        You - as well as many others - are spending more energy on diverting attention
        from the dirty business in the Auto Industry than on solving the problem by switching

        And I don't buy.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Are you serious? You think that the point of this is to make people feel better about driving their cars, that are by the way, about 100 times cleaner than they were just 25 years ago. The point to this whole discussion is that we've taken great strides as a society to address automobile emissions. The automakers have invested heavily over the past decades and made remarkable progress in reducing the tailpipe emissions. There are other industries, however, that have not yet put forth a similar effort that are still producing ridiculously high levels of emissions and contributing to the on-going climate changes. We are at a point of diminishing returns on automobile emissions (this would also apply to heavy duty trucks with the implementation of EPA2010 and Euro VI standards). These large container ships have done virtually nothing to improve their emissions. The same can probably said for coal fired power plants. However, unless China and some of the other developing nations decide to get on board with stricter emission standards, it's like sitting in the non-smoking booth right next to the smoking tables. Many other industries need to get involved in this as well. The auto industry and the heavy truck have done their part to make their products cleaner. We need to put the same emphasis on other GHG producing industries and products.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The article is almost completely about trace emissions. Only the end "facts" section gets to CO2/H2O emissions (greenhouse gasses).

      This has been covered on here a little bit already, or you can search the internet for "diesel death zone".

      Last time this was on, someone looked up the fuel economy of container ships (which correlates to the primary emissions) and container ships are very very efficient per ton-mile. Now, one might say we're shipping too much stuff, getting the tons up there and thus the emissions, but that's a bit of a different argument.

      As to trace emissions, bunker fuel is very low grade and very polluting. This is why CARB began regulating the fuels used in trains and ships many years ago. CARB's regulations for train fuel I believe has been adopted (or at least adapted) nationwide. The ships regulations is somewhat hampered by the fact that ships go outside the US and this CARB or even the EPA have no jurisdiction out there.
      • 1 Month Ago

      Thank you for the information.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Hold it!

      Emissions of WHAT?

      I think that is the key question.

      From a CO2 perspective, cargo ships per ton of fright are more efficient that 18-wheelers or freight trains.

      The likely emissions are particulate emissions that come from the fact that ships often burn heavy 'bunker' fuels that are more dirty than gasoline or diesel. However, they often burn on a diesel cycle, and ship engines are some of the most efficient ICE engines out there.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Dave's comment is substantive. There is no excuse outside of pure paranoia the these huge and tremendously expensive ships should not be nuclear powered. Right on Dave
      • 6 Years Ago
      What we really need to do is use international laws to close international tax havens for shipping. You will very rarely see any ship registered to a major nation. Most of them fly under the flags of tax havens that have virtually no regulation over their operations. Ships with US crews working for US companies are often registered in the Bahamas to get around taxes and regulations... even though they expect US tax-dollar-funded Navy to save them when boarded by pirates.

      Currently, the only thing most major nations can do is regulate their ports because very few ships claim them as a home country. We need to close the loopholes that create tax havens in order to actually regulate shipping.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't feel so quilty running my gas powered blower and weed eater now.
      • 6 Years Ago
      How do you think that gas powered blower and weeder eater got to your house from Japan?
        • 6 Years Ago
        peter, All of my gas powered yard accessories are made within 250 miles of where I live.
        • 6 Years Ago

        The motors were made in this country too. Not all within 250 miles, but some were within 250 miles.

        It's not that hard to buy American.

        • 6 Years Ago
        Last sentence of the article pretty well sums it up:

        "Shipping is responsible for 3.5% to 4% of all climate change emissions"

        Conversely, "Shipping is responsible for 18-30% of all the world's nitrogen oxide (NOx)". What this says to me is, they do need scrubbers for their stacks, but shipping is not killing our planet. Where are all the other 96% of climate changing emissions coming from?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Where were the motors in your gas powered accessories made?
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sam. You are one of the top posters at this site so really you should know better than to mix up pollutants and GHGs and post incorrect conclusions.

      The article is entirely about pollutants caused primarily by poor quality fuel, zero emission controls and finally the size of the engines.

      But the same thing applies when you look at one riding mower producing 34 times as much pollution per hour as car:

      But it doesn't produce 34 times as much GHGs, it would produce less than the car.

      If you burn a gallon of fuel you will get the same amount of CO2 regardless of emission controls. Actual pollutants OTOH can vary by huge amounts.

      Likewise we have zero information here to quantify shipping as a GHG source, it may in fact be MUCH less than vehicle transportation. In this case given the absolute horrendous nature of the fuel and total lack of pollution control, I would guess a factor of at least 1000 applies if you want to get back to GHG comparisons, in which case land vehicles become a very significant contributor again.

      • 6 Years Ago
      This post is totaly nonsens.

      if "15 largest ships combined may be emitting more than all the world's car" and cars contribute to 20% of total ghg emmision, this simply cant be true.

      Unless 16th bigest container ship in a world is not having 2 orders of magnitude smaller emmision then 15th (hint: it dosent) this is total bullshit. 89985 smaller ship would have to be geener then my backyard grass to make the total of ghg emisions summ up to 100% includning all the industtry, powerplants and cow poo

      • 6 Years Ago
      So the real polluters are trains, planes, and ocean liners? Who would have thought? Maybe those of us who have been saying just as much since the movement to rid the world of ICE powered automobiles started. Common sense. The Vast majority of our pollution comes from industry. But our governments will continue to target the passenger car, as that allows citizens to be taxed, not businesses. This news will have no effect on relieving the auto industry of overbearing regulations, and I doubt very much the real culprits will ever have to clean up their act or pay for their dirty ways any time soon.
        • 7 Months Ago
        We've already done a good job of reducing automotive pollution, now it is time to turn our attention and efforts elsewhere.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The US Navy operates a huge fleet of nuclear powered ships and has never had an accident.

      We could eliminate 20% of the earth's greenhouse gas by contracting the navy to convert these 15 ships to nukes and take over their operation.

      Of course, that will never happen.
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Only 3.5% - 4% of greenhouse gasses (if you converted every "ship" in the world to nuclear). Read the last bit of the article "Shipping by numbers" to see what I'm talking about. NOx isn't good for you, but I think the author is being somewhat misleading."

        The article was misleading. Good catch.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The US Navy has had accidents which involve their nuclear subs. And the Soviet Navy had myriad accidents which involve their nuclear ships.

        But the main reason these ships aren't nuclear is because it isn't cost-effective.

        Here's the main thing: polluting is free, especially if you do it over the open ocean. So no shipping company would spend more money reducing their emissions, and bunker fuel is cheap enough that the cost of it isn't much of a problem. So we end up with bunker fuel-powered ships.

        You're right about the paranoia too, there is always concern that the "bad guys" (pick your favorite) could use nuclear fuel to make a dirty bomb or something.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Only 3.5% - 4% of greenhouse gasses (if you converted every "ship" in the world to nuclear). Read the last bit of the article "Shipping by numbers" to see what I'm talking about. NOx isn't good for you, but I think the author is being somewhat misleading.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The NS Savannah was the first nuclear powered cargo/passenger ship built, for $46.9 million, including the $26.3 million reactor and fuel core that was funded by the government as a demonstration of nuclear power. Launched Junly 1959, it was in service between 1962 and 1972. The ship had a good safety record and excellent fuel economy, but the elegant sleek design was too limited in cargo capacity, loading and unloading cargo was difficult and labor intensive, the specialized maintenance was expensive, and oil was still fairly cheap. For those reasons, it was not considered commercially successful, and was decomissioned. There were a total of 4 nuclear powered freighters built, only one, the Russian built NS Sevmorput, is still operated by nuclear power.

        Of course, much has changed since 1972, the cost of oil has increased considerably more than the cost of nuclear power. So, a modern designed nuclear freighter might now be economically competitive.
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