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September 29, 2016   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

The Most Cost Effective Strategy to Improve Air Quality in Ports

As ports and harbor truck fleets around the country consider investing in new technology, more clean air benefits are generated faster by the investment in new clean diesel technology.

If you want to reduce emissions at ports on a limited budget, the most cost effective strategy relies on clean diesel.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released its “National Strategy” to reduce emissions at seaports across the country. The document confirms that investments in clean diesel technology is the most cost effective technology for reducing emissions in ports. While more clean diesel investments will be critical to improve air quality, making more productive use of these assets not only helps reduce emissions but improves the carbon footprint of port operations.

According to the recent National Port Strategy to Reduce Emissions the most cost effective strategy for improving air quality in ports around the country relies on the latest and proven clean diesel technology. The many trucks, trains, tug boats and cargo handling equipment found in operation in ports around the country run on diesel engines and fuel. Yet, much of these diesel powered vehicles and equipment are much older than the general populations of vehicles and equipment and upgrading to the latest diesel technology will reduce emissions and improve air quality. While alternative technologies, such as all-electric or certain advanced hybrid technologies, are on the drawing table today, data included in the document estimates that more clean air benefits are achievable from investments in proven clean diesel technology.

Nowhere is this more evident than the fleet of harbor trucks seen moving cargo in and out of many seaports. According to the National Port Strategy, the fleet of harbor trucks is much older than other commercial vehicles seen moving freight across many roads and highways. When it comes to reducing emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – a smog forming compound – clean diesel provides more investment benefits. For example, replacing a truck manufactured before 1991 with a new clean diesel trucks will only cost $86 per lbs. of NOx reduced. Replacing this same truck with all-electric technology will cost $165 per lbs. of NOx. Truth be told, an all-electric port truck does not exist in the U.S. that is capable of meeting the demanding duty cycle of a Class 8 commercial vehicle. The analysis assumes that such a truck, if ever introduced in the future, will cost twice as much as a new clean diesel truck.

The investment in a new clean diesel harbor truck will come at a price as well. But making smarter use of these expensive transportation assets will generate modest air quality benefits but even greater contributions to fuel savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions. The analysis included in the National Port Strategy concludes that automating gate entry processes (so that trucks and their drivers do not have to stop to complete paper work transactions while entering and leaving marine terminals) can reduce NOx emissions by almost 11 tons and carbon emissions by almost 14,000 tons.  Companies and customers concerned about the carbon footprint of the goods they sell and purchase should take notice of the enormous achievable reduction in emissions made possible by making smarter use of transportation assets alongside the adoption of the latest clean technologies.


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Ezra Finkin
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