Hybrid Sightline research director, Clark Williams-Derry recently wrote (Give a Toot, Don’t Pollute!) about Foss Marine’s hybrid tug. He mentioned a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that Foss was in line for to retrofit tugboats, reducing the amount of pollution emitted from their engines. Last week EPA administrator Lisa Jackson was in town to award that grant along with several others. The grant announcement came from the EPA but also from a group called the West Coast Collaborative, a “partnership between leaders from federal, state, and local government, the private sector, and environmental groups committed to reducing diesel emissions along the West Coast.”

What made this particular cycle of grants interesting was the idea of retrofitting things that we don’t typically think of when we consider green jobs and energy efficiencies—boats, trucks and trains.  The grant to Collaborative projects totaled more than $16 million over the course of the next few years.

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  • The Collaborative is impressive in its scope, both geographically and in what it’s doing to reduce climate changing emissions, increase efficiencies, and reduce dependence on unsustainable sources of fuel. Let’s take a look at trucks and tugboats.

    The next time you happen to be on the highway, maybe on a holiday road trip, take a look at the semi—truck and trailer rigs on the road. You’ll notice that some of them have sleek looking fiberglass pieces between the truck and the trailer and some may have “skirts” on either side of the trailer. These aren’t just additions to make the truck look cool ( Yosemite Sam mud flaps notwithstanding).


    Retrofits for All Tugboats Truck Drag

    See a full Power Point presentation on savings from improving aerodynamics here.

    According to the Collaborative’s fact sheet these “technologies have been proven to improve fuel efficiency by 7.4 percent, 5.1 percent and 2 percent, respectively, and reduce harmful diesel emissions proportionally.” And it is serious business. There are many manufacturers working on improving the fuel efficiency of trucks by decreasing the drag created by trailers.  And the improvements don’t just reduce pollution they save money. Again, quoting the fact sheet, the projects funded by the EPA grants will “save Northwest truckers an estimated $3,500,000 in fuel costs annually.” That is a good step toward getting off the fossil fuel roller coaster and it will create new jobs for installers, funded, partially, by the more than $2 million going into the project.

    Let’s not forget the tugboats. The tugboat project is part of the efforts of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (a member of the West Coast Collaborative) to reduce particulate emissions from tugboats operating in the Puget Sound.  The EPA grant allocates more than $700,000 for the retrofit of the four 4,000-horsepower marine engines on the Garth and the Lindsey, both boats operating in Foss Maritime’s fleet in Puget Sound. The engines will be retrofitted with technology developed by Environmental Solutions Worldwide, a pollution-reducing device called the XtrmCat (TM) Diesel Oxidation Catalyst.

    The device, essentially a catalytic converter, is on the EPA’s list of emerging technologies and is projected to reduce tugboats’ emissions of particulate matter by 25 percent, hydrocarbons by 25 percent and carbon monoxide by 70 percent hydrocarbons by 25 percent and carbon monoxide by 70 percent. And David J. Johnson, president and CEO of ERW told me that the device does the same thing for the tug boat that a catalytic converter does for a car, capturing particulate emissions before they get into the air. This device also allows the capture of oil that otherwise would be lost, recycling it so that, ultimately, the tug uses less oil. The six-year project will create about 5 jobs and is intended as a pilot for expanded efforts to retrofit tugboats throughout the fleet.

    These might seem like small steps when it comes to industries that are inherently really dirty, creating lots of emissions and pollution. Like retrofitting buildings, incremental steps are important for the environment and people’s health, reducing emissions that contribute to climate change but also asthma and upper respiratory illness. They also begin the shift towards efficiencies that reduce fuel use, save money, and create green jobs.

    More must be done but these strategies clear the way to important complementary policies for comprehensive cap—and-trade legislation. Even little steps are part of a big puzzle that will come together to really curb carbon emissions and create jobs.