To protect their citizens from climate chaos, governments, including ours in BC, are committing to massive reductions in fossil fuel use. What does that mean for our ferry?
The ferry is something I want to see continue, and something key to our economy and lives. So I looked into it. What I discovered concerned me enough that I wrote it up and presented my findings in person to the Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC). Here is what I found:CORTES FERRY CO2 EMISSIONSThe Cortes ferry emits over 1000 tonnes of CO2 per year to service an island with a residential population of about 1000.
It burns 15 litres of diesel for each car roundtrip. Every two round trips emits 1 tonne of CO2. Is this a lot?
For comparison, 1000 tonnes per year is close to the maximum sustainable CO2 emissions for all Cortes residents. This CO2 allowance will be needed for all other uses: food, water, heat, light, health care, government, military, industry, and so on. To me it seems clear that if the ferry is going to continue, it is going to have to dramatically reduce it's CO2 emissions somehow. How much and how soon is the question.COMING CO2 RESTRICTIONS
Over the last 5 years, thousands of scientists have studied the earth's reaction, past and present, to increasing CO2 and warming. The results were compiled into the world's most definitive report on climate change. This UN IPCC report said that to avoid dangerous climate change we need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 80% in the next 40 years.
Since almost all of our emissions are from burning fossil fuels, it means similar cuts in fossil fuels.
Increasing population, means per person cuts of 10% every 4 to 5 years...25% each decade
To do this every part of society and the economy will transition to alternate fuels or use less energy. Or both. That's a major task and has been compared to the mobilizing for World War II. Is any government going to sign up for this?GOVERNMENT COMMITMENTSActually, yes. Many governments, including ours in BC, have recently committed to CO2 reductions of 10% every 4-6 years.
Our conservative Premier has committed BC to 33% reduction in 12 years. Since transportation is biggest source (40%), major cuts in gas and diesel for transportation are coming soon.
And it is not just BC. In the last year, the following governments have committed to at least 60% reductions in 40 years:
100% Norway, Costa Rica, Sweden
80% Ontario, California, Florida, New Jersey, Germany
70% France, Oregon, Connecticut, New Hampshire
60% UK and many US states
Dozens more are on the verge. Every democratic candidate for US President has pledged to cut USA emissions 80% in 40 years. Several laws mandating cuts of this size, sponsored by left and right, are moving through the US Congress. In two years, 650 US cities, from every state, have pledged to meet Kyoto targets. Europe is close to a 50%+ commitment. Even our anti-Kyoto Prime Minister Harper, agreed recently to commit Canada to 50% if the USA also went along.
Commitments are being made by political left and the right. Germany, France, BC and California are world leaders in big cuts and pushing others to join. All are led by conservatives.So with big cuts in fossil fuel for transportation coming soon, how will our Cortes ferry adapt?HOW WILL CO2 RESTRICTIONS HAPPEN
It depends in part on what policies are put in place to force CO2 cuts. Which we choose locally, provincially and nationally will effect many things we do including our ferry.Raise the price.
Many economists on left and right favour a pricing scheme to reduce demand. Whether a carbon tax or "cap-and-trade" this method raises the price of fossil fuels across the board. The price goes up until demand falls required amount. For example, if gas prices rose to current European levels it would add almost a dollar a litre. Right there you have an additional $15 fuel surcharge per car on Cortes ferry. And that's just a start.Ban wasteful uses.
Instead of punishing all fossil fuel uses equally, some governments are banning particularly wasteful, non-essential uses. For example requiring four-stroke instead of two-stroke engines and mandating higher fuel economy and energy efficiency. If our government does enough of this, it will take the pressure off of more essential uses and provide a less expensive and more graceful transition.Personal allowances.
Another avenue being explored is giving each person a fossil fuel allowance that can be used at a lower cost. Anything above this base level would go to much higher pricing. This ensures the less wealthy can do the basics without being financially hammered. In this scenario, buying a ticket on the ferry might require using some of your allowance if you want to avoid the big fuel surcharges.Society is entering a short window of opportunity to influence which policies will be chosen to reduce fossil fuel use. Each option has a different set of winners and losers. Now is a good time to contact your representatives and let your desires be known. WHAT ARE THE FERRY OPTIONS?
At the FAC meeting the BC Ferry reps said they were aware that changes would need to happen and that they planned to study their emissions over the next year. They said they did not have any solutions yet or initiatives in place to make reductions of this magnitude. Stay the course.
If the ferry stays as a fossil fuel powered ship, there likely will be significantly reduced service and higher prices in the coming decades. Bio-diesel.
Washington State Ferries have been experimenting with bio-diesel. But so far it is running into problems. First the engines are unable to run properly with existing bio-diesel so the experiment was stopped while a new formula is being worked on. Second the supply, as a BC Ferry rep pointed out, is unlikely to be enough to run the fleet. Already 1/3 of the USA corn crop is going to bio-fuels. The airline industry desperately wants bio-fuels as they have no other option. Their own study said it would take a land mass the size of florida to produce 10% of the fuel needed for USA airlines. Bio-fuels might buy some transition time though.Alternate fuels.
Cities like Syndey, NYC & SF are switching some ferries to solar/wind/diesel hybrids
. I'm sure there are other options...all likely to have expensive up front cost.
This highlights a challenge of climate change. Most long-lasting fossil fuel powered transportation will be restricted in their use before they wear out. It's important that new fossil fuel using machines and infrastructure are as effecient as possible or they will be restricted in their use. BC Ferries just bought 7 new super ferries. How they will adapt to fuel restrictions and what that means for flexibility towards smaller ferries is a interesting question.Different ferry.
BC Ferries might choose to reduce their fossil fuel use by adding a lower impact passenger ferry to do some of the trips that the car ferry does now.
I'm sure there are lots more options and permutations on all this. But it is clear that BC Ferries will need to start dramatically reducing their fossil fuel use soon....until it is a fraction of what it is now. The choices our government and BC Ferries makes on how to do this could have large impacts on our island.WHO TO CONTACT
John Sprungman, chair of the FAC, recommends comment on this could be sent to:
Capts. Marshall, Taylor and Capacci of the BC Ferries' Executive Team
The Ferry Commissioner: martin.crillybcferrycommission.com
Director of Marine Branch of the Ministry of Transportation: nancy.merstongov.bc.ca
You might want to talk to your government representatives about the plans they have to limit the impact of the coming fossil fuel reductions on our communities, including our Cortes ferry service. I personally would like to see a national debate and vote on options to ensure fairness. MP Catherine Bell MLA Claire Trevena Regional Director Jenny HiebertMORE INFO
Here are links documents I've put together with details and sources.
(754k) My FAC presentation notes and research.
(67k) Another doc distributed to the FAC and others.
(95k) List of gov CO2 reduction comittments I know about.
In addition, here are a few websites that highlight the momentum of this issue: Pew Center Emissions Targets Watch
. Carbon Tax Center
. Who supports carbon tax and why. The Climate Group Report
. Which global corporations, major cities and local governments are cutting CO2 and by how much. Rupert Murdoch interview on climate change.
"When Rupert Murdoch, the cantankerous and conservative owner of Fox News, enthusiastically joins the fight against climate change, you know we're past the tipping point on the issue. Think landslide..." Hansen's 3-point climate change plan.
Top US climate scientist's plan.
Solar Sailor hybrid ferry coming soon to NYC.
Sustainable level in green. Canadians use lots more than most countries. Equal percentage cuts will mean great actual amounts cut for Canada than most other nations.
Despite being only the 36th most populous nation we manage to be the 7th largest emitter of greenhouse gases...both this year and total for all years. UK has twice our population but fewer emissions.
Putting current US emissions in perspective. Canada's are just as high per person and our part of this map could hold the world's 4th and 5th most populous nations: Brazil and Indonesia.