While the measuring stick for tugboat fuel economy is quite a bit different than cars, you can't shrug off the dramatic improvement shipbuilders have made in recent years. The latest boat from the Sause Bros. Ocean Towing Co. is rated at 1,200 miles per gallon per ton of cargo. Ten years ago, say company officials, tugs were rated at 514 mpgpt. The tugs are used to push barges filled with lumber or oil down the Pacific Coast and other waterways. Ethanol is also transported on the barges, which have a double hull and a system that replaces oxygen with nitrogen to minimize explosions during loading and unloading of different fuels. Officials say improvements to the engine combined with better hull design help achieve the improved fuel economy. The company says it was warned in the late '90s that diesel fuel prices would jump from 43 cents to $1. When diesel climbed to nearly $3 a gallon, officials said customers "really noticed a difference with our fuel efficiency."

[Source: Alexander Rich / The World]

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