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CO2 output from shipping twice as much as airlines

John Vidal, Guardian
Carbon dioxide emissions from shipping are double those of aviation and increasing at an alarming rate which will have a serious impact on global warming, according to research by the industry and European academics.

Separate studies suggest that maritime carbon dioxide emissions are not only higher than previously thought, but could rise by as much as 75% in the next 15 to 20 years if world trade continues to grow and no action is taken. The figures from the oil giant BP, which owns 50 tankers, and researchers at the Institute for Physics and Atmosphere in Wessling, Germany reveal that annual emissions from shipping range between 600 and 800m tonnes of carbon dioxide, or up to 5% of the global total. This is nearly double Britain’s total emissions and more than all African countries combined.

Carbon dioxide emissions from ships do not come under the Kyoto agreement or any proposed European legislation and few studies have been made of them, even though they are set to increase.

Aviation carbon dioxide emissions, estimated to be about 2% of the global total, have been at the forefront of the climate change debate because of the sharp increase in cheap flights, whereas shipping emissions have risen nearly as fast in the past 20 years but have been ignored by governments and environmental groups. Shipping is responsible for transporting 90% of world trade which has doubled in 25 years.
(3 March 2007)

NYC: The Leisurely Pleasures of a Pedicab

William Neuman, NYC
You feel every jolt and bump of the potholed streets. You feel a communion with the pigeons that swoop down and dart just overhead. A yellow parade of taxicabs rushes by close enough to touch. A double-decker bus looms suddenly alongside, seeming, in contrast to your puny status, like a skyscraper on wheels. Look up, and the real skyscrapers soar above you.

But for all its urban grittiness, there is something oddly bucolic about seeing New York from the back of a pedicab. It reduces this most bustling of cities to human-powered speed. There’s an almost tranquil feeling as you float lazily through traffic: Huck and Jim on a raft.

It is a feeling that the fellow pedaling the bike seems to share as well. “It’s a great gig,” Sean Devin, a veteran pedicab driver, said yesterday as he pedaled down Fifth Avenue south of Central Park. “You’re outside all the time. You start when you want, quit when you want, take whatever days off you want. You’re pretty much your own boss. It’s one of the last bohemian jobs left.”

But the unfettered world of pedicabs is about to change. The City Council passed legislation this week that for the first time would regulate what has been a quickly growing industry. It would limit the number of pedicabs to 325, down from what industry representatives estimate is now 500. It would also require drivers to post their rates, force owners to carry liability insurance and ban the small electric motors that some use as backup power to provide a boost for tired legs.
(2 March 2007)

Toronto gas shortage: Drivers urged to rethink how they get around

Michele Henry, Toronto Star
The fuel shortage gripping Toronto has environmental and oil industry experts grumbling about the relationship Torontonians have with gas.

Motorists take gas for granted, said Michael Ervin, president of MJ Ervin & Associates, a Calgary-based petroleum and refining consultant firm. Drivers are showing no signs of curbing consumption,he said.

Instead of desperately searching for an open gas station or idling in line-ups at the pump, people should be using this shortage as a wake-up call.

“We should be thinking about … going back to something more environmentally friendly the next time we buy a family car, or we should use more fuel-efficient cars or drive less,” Ervin said yesterday. “We need to stop being hypocritical as a society and stop complaining about high gas prices on one hand and being irresponsible as gas consumers on the other hand.”

Besides, he said, if we reduce demand for gas and lower consumption, prices will go down. The cost of gas has risen 17 per cent in the last two weeks, stabilizing at just below $1.

…More than 200 gas stations in Ontario shut down temporarily this week when the pumps ran dry. A fire at Imperial Oil’s Nanticoke, Ont., refinery last week, combined with a CN Rail strike and the annual winter closing of the St. Lawrence Seaway, caused massive disruptions in the distribution of gas.

It all came as a sharp reminder that motorists are at the mercy of the oil companies. It’ll be at least two weeks before the pumps begin running normally.
(2 March 2007)
Related from the Toronto Star:
Fuel shortage hits truckers

Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles for a Sustainable Future

Andrew A. Frank, American Scientist
Appropriately designed hybrid cars will help wean society off petroleum. The necessary technology is available now
The idea of a hybrid vehicle—one that propels itself using both a conventional engine and an electric motor—is not new. Indeed, some hybrid automobiles were produced more than a century ago, when the internal combustion engine was still in its infancy. These cars were designed to address the limited range of existing electric vehicles and the difficulty of starting the early engines, which had to be cranked by hand (a procedure that resulted in not a few broken arms). The early hybrid vehicles, and the purely electric cars that dominated the fledgling automobile industry early in the 20th century, eventually gave way to a proliferation of cars based on the now-ubiquitous internal combustion engine, a development made possible by the relatively low cost and widespread availability of gasoline.

As a result, the hybrid concept remained dormant until the 1970s, a decade during which the price of a gallon of gas tripled. The higher cost brought to light an inherent problem of using internal combustion engines in cars: inefficiency. For example, until recently it’s been universal practice to keep the engine running at all times, even when the car comes to a stop, because having to restart the engine was viewed as problematical. So the engines in our cars are simply idled, which uses fuel to do essentially nothing. Even when the car is moving, much energy is wasted because the engine is usually throttled—the amount of air it is allowed to take in is restricted, which lowers power to an appropriate level but also acts to diminish efficiency. What’s more, fuel is even consumed in slowing the car, because this is normally done by throttling back the engine after running at speed.

…Plug-in hybrid vehicles are clearly more than just devices for getting around. I view them as a realistic means by which society can significantly reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. When these cars hit the road in large numbers, which I fervently hope will not be more than a year or two away, some fraction of the energy used to recharge them will come from renewable sources feeding the grid. And some buyers will install solar panels or wind turbines specifically to recharge their plug-ins. As more and more people do so, society will gradually become less and less dependent on fossil-fuel energy.

…. So I am confident that plug-in hybrids will allow all of us to retain and indeed improve our comfortable lifestyles at a lower cost and in a less disruptive manner than any transportation alternative envisioned today.
(March-April 2007)
Contributor Steven Lesh writes:
A good roundup of the current state of the art in plug-in hybrids. If you think the Prius is ‘the end of car history’, read this!