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Free Petrol Pt II

Written By: - Date published: 6:38 pm, August 1st, 2016 - 11 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, Environment, global warming, political alternatives, science, transport, vision - Tags: , , , , ,

Part one here.

Neither international shipping nor aviation is included in any country’s CO2 emissions totals. Both sectors have been allowed to self regulate. Neither sector has done a damned thing about reducing emissions.

A fair bit of what follows is based on study undertaken by Alice Bows-Larkin and published in an open source format All adrift: aviation, shipping, and climate change
or Executing a Scharnow turn: reconciling shipping emissions with international commitments on climate change

In 2011, the aviation industry in NZ emitted about 3.3 million tonnes of CO2e. The split between international flights and domestic flights was something like 1 million tonnes from domestic flights and 2.3 million tonnes from international schedules.

There are some current technologies that can reduce airline emissions through gains in fuel efficiency (eg – open rotor engines and geared turbo fans) but essentially the game’s up. The first hydrogen fuelled aircraft, the Tupolev Tu-155 flew in 1988, but the aviation sector chose not to pursue that route of zero GHG emissions, and as recently as 2010, the BBC reportedthe promised “green” fuel for powering flights of the future has been quietly shelved in favour of biofuels and more fossil fuel-sipping aviation.”

The reason was simple enough. The pursuit of profit and shareholder dividends came before the pursuit of human welfare and well being.

The only way to bring aviation emissions down fast enough now, given the absence of hydrogen fuelled aircraft, is to reduce demand. That means cutting flight numbers. Here’s a way to achieve that.

Rescind all permissions for private jets entering NZ air space.

Place a moratorium on the establishment of any new international routes.

Instruct the industry to reduce its international air miles by 1/12th of the necessary annual reduction in emissions every month, and to base that calculation on the sum total of domestic and international air miles. (ie – 1/12th of a 10 – 15% annual reduction)

And of course, construct a compliance regime around all of that. In other words, nothing unusual – just the implementation of regulatory framework that’s been informed by science and that recognises our need to get to zero carbon very quickly.

The reason for targeting international flights over domestic flights, is that should NZs bio-fuel capacity be successfully up-scaled for shipping (see below), then suitably refined excess could be allocated for the purposes of domestic air travel…at least until around 2030.

I know that what I’ve just written sounds draconian. That’s because it is. This industry has had over 25 years worth of access to appropriate technology that would have hammered its emissions but it has chosen to do nothing.

Assuming the adoption of similar regimes on a global scale, then we have a bright side to look at. They say necessity is the mother of invention. With the sudden need to do something in the face of a 10 – 15% annual contraction in their business, I wouldn’t be surprised if the design of that hydrogen powered Tu-155 gets dusted off and viewed with a renewed enthusiasm alongside a ‘can do’ attitude.

There have also been some recent developments on airship design.

Now I admit to being quite drawn to the idea of lazy, battery powered airship travel. But that’s just romanticism and beside the point I guess. Airships will likely be used for shifting seriously large loads from point a to point b.

NZ Shipping.

In 2008 New Zealand’s sea freight industry consisted of thirteen ships, including the five Cook Strait vessels. I dare say it’s not much larger today – we’re probably talking no more than handful or so of coastal freighters. In 2011, coastal shipping in New Zealand emitted about 300 000 tonnes of CO2e. (Very roughly, that might equate to about 100 000 tonnes of fuel)

New Zealand only has a nascent bio-fuel capacity. Z energy hopes to produce around 20 000 tonnes per year. How much that capacity would have to be increased depends on how many other technologies the shipping sector adopts. But whatever, after 2030, and in line with achieving a necessarily zero carbon energy supply, bio-fuel can’t be used as a source of energy.

Here’s the thing, the shipping sector could have used any one of a number of various technologies that have existed for years and years to bring its emissions down. But it’s done nothing.

Flettner rotors have been around since the 1920s. The E-Ship 1, a cargo freighter that’s about the same size as NZ coastal freighter, was launched in 2010. Granted, the energy source for the flettner rotors of the E-Ship 1 is diesel, but there’s no obvious reason as to why that source couldn’t be bio-fuel on retro-fitted freighters until 2030, or a mix of battery and bio-fuel or whatever until 2030 before completing the switch to a zero carbon fuel source.

Aside from flettner rotors and battery powered ships, there are fixed and rigid sails that have been around ‘since for-ever’. Add in kites and solar panels and we get a fair menu of options that the shipping industry could retro-fit to existing vessels and use in a variety of combinations to achieve zero carbon shipping.

International shipping coming into NZ waters is a bit beyond our control, but if we assume that the UK’s template for international shipping is roughly comparable to NZ, then we might be looking at somewhere in the region of half of international shipping coming into NZ being tankers carrying fossil fuel. So by 2030 (and with some caveats), emissions from international shipping might be down by some 50% (from 0.8 million tonnes to 0.4 million tonnes) without taking any direct action on international shipping.

Of course the shipping sector, like the aviation sector, has shown no enthusiasm for doing the right thing, where the right thing impacts on profit and shareholder returns. But I’d hazard that if the shipping sector lifted its gaze to rest on an aviation sector being given no slack whatsoever by a government serious in seeking to uphold its international obligations with regards global warming, and determined to do the right thing by its citizenry, then they might toe the line.

Add in the potential pressure of a mobilised citizenry who’ve elevated the protection of the future to be their number one priority, and I’m thinking the pressure would be irresistible. Bringing that huge shift about isn’t the subject of the next post, but the shift would arise as a consequence of the scenario it lays out.

Part three

11 comments on “Free Petrol Pt II ”

  1. Bill 1

    After posting, I had a further think about aviation. Asking the sector to reduce air miles won’t work – they’d simply ‘hop’ through Australia and claim to have reduced longer haul flights.

    So, the reduction would have to be on the actual number of arrivals and departures.

  2. weka 2

    One of the bigger blocks to change is the current sense of entitlement we have. If one can afford to (an important caveat) then we can fly or drive wherever and whenever we want. This is unprecedented in human history on the population scale we have.

    If we want to roll back that privilege I think at least two things have to happen. One is that people need to understand that in losing one thing, something else is gained.

    The other is that people need a process to get their heads around the change that will enable them to change, otherwise there is often an immediate reaction of ‘we can’t do that’, ‘it won’t work’ etc and people get retrenched in resistance.

    So in regards to the gradualised reduction of international flights I’d make these suggestions,

    1. look at what we gain from this. Off the top of my head, there is the climate change mitigation which should be obvious. We could also point to the ethical satisfaction in not doing something relatively frivilous (getting a book delivered from Amazon in a week instead of a month) if it means saving someone’s life. Creating those positive cultural memes seems crucial (and not in a blaming, guilt tripping way).

    I suspect that there would be other less immediately obvious ones. eg someone who has to fly often for business might be offered time instead to spend with their families or on recreation.

    2. what would help people get their heads around the change? One thing might be to categorise international flights into priorities.

    Essential (we might not want to give these up at all)
    eg medical flights, emergency aid flights.

    Important but replaceable (we should put special effort into how to replace these)

    eg ‘business’ meetings. By business I mean all the face to face things we do to run society. We have the tech to do these remotely, so what is it that is important about seeing each other and how can that be resolved?

    eg conferences (looking at you especially climate change activists and scientists).

    Low Importance (we should give these ones up as the first option)
    eg overseas holidays, tourism, export non-essential goods, import non-essential goods.

    If tourism seems a higher importance, let’s remember that the right to travel for pleasure doesn’t rate when we look at the urgency of the situation and the fact that millions of people are going to be displaced and many will die. In NZ we can make a living in other ways.

    • Bill 2.1

      There’s no real reason why the essential category couldn’t be reliant on hydrogen powered planes. From looking at the Tu-155 and doing a wee bit of reading, it’s the fuel storage on the planes that differs from kerosene powered planes.

      I’m fairly sure that retro-fitting could be carried out on at least some of the current fleet.

      Or build them.

      That aside, I was looking at the reduction being implemented by the sector or government so that demand was reduced as a function of availability rather than through altered consumer choices. Too many people tend to always view themselves or their activity as an exception.

      Is it worth noting that long haul international air travel only became an increasing viable option from sometime in the 50s?

      • weka 2.1.1

        Agreed on the essential category.

        Also agreed on the primacy of government intervention across transport sectors (although I think that consumer choice should be advocated as well, we need all hands to the pump).

        Governments (and industries) are still made up of people who go through the same processes internally, and they are reliant on the general public getting on board too (I think getting people on board is more realistic in NZ than a top down, authoritarian approach by government).

        To that end, we need ways to get people past the immediate reactions of it can’t be done, so my suggestions weren’t so much about personal consumer choice, as getting people on board politically so they support the changes that will be implemented society wide. Once it becomes normal to think about not flying whenever we want, it will be easier for policy development, legislation, industry buy-in, and not just consumer choice but citizen demand, because all those things are done by people who’ve changed their minds.

        • Bill

          …(and industries) are still made up of people who go through the same processes internally…

          No. A CEO, for example, makes decisions based on shareholder return. If they take other factors into account, they get fired. That (so the argument goes) is why they are paid such obscene amounts of money – to put humanity/ethics way off to one side and ‘get on with it’ – where ‘it’ is maximising shareholder returns.

          Governments (sometimes) reflect the will of a populace. That usually takes pressure over time. Government could then deal appropriately with business (in terms of AGW) by constraining their possible decisions within various legislative frameworks (as suggested in the post).

          As also said in the post, the aviation and shipping sectors have dragged their heels because they made more short term profit by doing so. That priority is an institutional fact and no individual can impact on that priority and stay within the institution.

          It’s the free petrol in the third part that gets us all on board. A lot of the rest flows from that. But government is going to have to be forced to adopt any such policy because, whereas industry is geared to profit, government is geared to tend an environment advantageous to industry’s prerogatives.

          You and I get a vote. But the welfare of me and you is not what governments exist for. We do, however, have leverage.

          • weka

            “It’s the free petrol in the third part that gets us all on board.”

            I don’t think that’s sufficient. Plenty of people if offered the choice would keep paying for petrol and have things not change. So something else needs to be there in addition to the free petrol.

            I think your comment largely misses what I was saying and the point I was making in my original comment. It’s not about why governments exist. I’m lookng for the path from where we are now to making your suggestions real, and I think that we need people to get on board for it to happen. Most people will resist the idea of stopping international flights even if you offer them free petrol.

            Government policy is developped within departments. The people in those departments needs to be on board. They need to understand how having no international flights is going to make their and other people’s world better. Ditto people in companies etc.

            “As also said in the post, the aviation and shipping sectors have dragged their heels because they made more short term profit by doing so. That priority is an institutional fact and no individual can impact on that priority and stay within the institution.”

            I have no idea how that is relevant to what I have been saying, and think we are pretty much talking at cross purposes now.

            • Bill

              I’m lookng for the path from where we are now to making your suggestions real, and I think that we need people to get on board for it to happen.

              Remember how in part one I said that All posts are taking as read the necessity to both formulate and roll out extensive public awareness/education programmes,…

              From a government department perspective, awareness around AGW works in the same way as it does for smoking, drugs, teen pregnancy, breast screening etc etc etc.

              And there’d be a host of NGOs pushing the same message (they’ll get real when and if the raw numbers are presented to them)

              And suddenly academics break cover? Possible.

              I’d pick hitting existent NGOs as a first step. (Gen Zero, 350.org, Greenpeace etc) And seriously, unless someone comes along with another workable solution that delivers the needed reductions, then the free petrol runs. And that is what government gets pressured on while getting the commitments they signed up to held in front of them while they explain why they haven’t honoured them. As I say, if they (governments or any one) can come up with another way, then fine.

              But unless they do, they get forced to run with the only sufficient proposal on the table.

              And you’re saying that individuals would create on the grounds that they can’t by-pass a hard wired delivery system that is accessed for free because they’d want to keep paying for stuff? Well, fine. All they have to do is draw up a proposal involving payment that would deliver 10-15% reductions year on year across the entire roading sector.

              And then (I guess it could be sequential) if anyone can up with a plan for aviation that isn’t a hard sinking cap and that produces 10 – 15% reductions, then fine. Otherwise, it’s a hard sinking cap.

              As for flyers objecting – I dare say some will. But then, “my children” will object to their objection far more convincingly and with much, much more anger.

              So step one. Get the NGOs to acknowledge the actual numbers and actual scientific capabilities, because at present they don’t (not the ones listed anyway).

  3. Bill 3

    Originally posted by Draco T Bastard on the Pt IV thread

    Giving container ships a new nose saves hundreds of tons of fuel

    To cut down on resistance, Kyokuyo Shipyard developed the Semi-Spherical Shaped bow (SSS bow), which reduced wind resistance by as much as 50%. In real-world terms, the new bow cuts energy use by 11% which on a container ship capable of carrying 2,000 cars (540 TEU) means 807 tons less fuel consumed each year, equating to 2,500 tons less CO2 emissions. Imagine using it on a 10,000 TEU ship? As the TEU of the ship goes up, so does the fuel saving, and it’s most effective on very tall ships which suffer the worst wind resistance.

    Sounds good.

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