Transportation's Carbon Footprint
The world’s people have traded food for centuries. Food has never, however, been traded at the speed at which it is traded now. This evolution has created an expectation that all foods should be available wherever and whenever, regardless of season or geography.
The environmental cost of shipping food is increasingly being scrutinized. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. rail and truck transport annually consumes more than 35 billion gallons of diesel fuel, which represents more than 350 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Based on current trends this could reach 450 million metric tons by 2012.
Aircraft transport requires greater fuel consumption and GHG emissions per ton-mile than any other mode of goods transport, and their emissions’ impact may be amplified due to the high altitude where they occur.
In 2008 the European Commission in Brussels announced that all freight-carrying flights into and out of the European Union would be included in the trading bloc’s emissions-trading program by 2012, meaning permits will have to be purchased for the emissions they generate. The European Parliament recently passed a nonbinding resolution setting, among other provisions, a global cap on sulfur content of marine fuels of 0.5 percent by 2020 from the current maximum of 4.5 percent.
The London-based International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced rules that would lower the cap for sulfur content in fuel for ships traveling in international waters beginning in 2012. The rules would also provide more rigorous protections in designated areas with demonstrated air pollution problems.
Changing core business practices associated with transportation to keep up with the growing expectations to reduce GHG emissions poses a significant challenge.
Changing those practices to become more sustainable? With meat industry logistics and transportation, the issues involve strategic choices. Although they are not as plentiful as some in the consumer products world, there are a number of effective options. Choices include:
- strategic consolidation programs;
- efficient warehousing planning;
- strategic routing practices;
- alternative fuels, aligning with vendors/services providers certified by reputable organizations;
- upgrading or retrofitting your vehicles, driver training; and
- and other GHG emissions-reduction and fuel-saving measures.
Wal-Mart has announced its intentions to begin sourcing produce from farms closer to its stores, thereby reducing fuel costs.
To help the industry, Accenture and the World Economic Forum teamed up to report on a set of steps that can cut in half supply chain emissions tied to transportation and logistics. According to the January 2009 report, “Supply Chain Decarbonization: The Role of Logistics and Transport in Reducing Supply Chain Carbon Emissions,”. The logistics and transport sector produces about five percent of global greenhouse emissions. The report identified 13 steps that can halve emissions, including switching to more fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles to reduce emissions, slowing down transport of road vehicles and ships while increasing load sizes, optimizing manufacturing location to take advantage of lower carbon-intensive electricity generation, and reducing packaging.
The U.S. EPA has developed a SmartWay Transport program, which helps offset the costs of installing systems for lowering truck emissions, such as more efficient tires, diesel particulate filters, improved aerodynamics, automatic tire inflation systems, speed governors and auxiliary power units to avoid engine idling during extended stops. By 2012, EPA aims to reduce as much as 18 million metric tons of carbon-equivalent and up to 200,000 tons of nitrogen oxides annually. These reductions will create fuel savings of up to 150 million barrels of oil annually.
Nearly 800 shippers, carriers (private fleets and fleets-for-hire) and logistics providers have become SmartWay members so far. Companies that employ 100 percent SmartWay compliant carriers can qualify to include a SmartWay logo on their consumer packaging. The SmartWay Savings Calculator, allows fleet owners to compare the costs and savings of various technologies, allowing you to enter different values for fuel use, fuel cost, and to adjust the number of trucks, the gallons of fuel your company uses, and the quantities for each technology you wish to use. This tool can help determine how to deploy these technologies on your entire fleet or on only a few tractors and trailers. Results are displayed automatically as you update the form.
EPA also has a Voluntary Diesel Retrofit Program that provides information on various diesel emission control technologies, program contacts, and federal and state funding sources to offset the cost of retrofitting trucks, buses and construction vehicles. EPA initiated the program to supplement its 2002 and 2007 diesel engine emissions standards. The EPA website provides a list of commercially available technologies that have been verified to reduce emissions from diesel engines and a calculator for estimating the resulting emission reductions.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center provides alternative fuel and vehicle information. The site contains information on alternative fuels, alternative fueled vehicles (including heavy-duty vehicles), refueling sites and more. information on public-private partnerships that deploy alternative fuel vehicles and build supporting alternative fuel infrastructure. In addition, the American Trucking Association sponsors GreenTruck in cooperation with the Transportation Environmental Resource Center.
Agricultural Carbon Market Working Group
Ag Offsets Blog
Illinois Conservation & Climate Initiative
Iowa Farm Bureau
Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association
National Carbon Offset Coalition
Conservation International Carbon Offsets
Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases
Chicago Climate Exchange
Conservation Technology Information Center
Duke University, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions Standard for Measuring, Monitoring and Verifying Ag- Forest GHG Reductions
Forest Carbon Sequestration
Kansas State Carbon Sequestration Center
Pew Center-Global Climate Change
Point Carbon Energy & Environment Markets
Climate and Farming – Cornell University
Greenhouse Gas Protocol
Sustainability in Action!
Recapped Tires – The Smithfield transportation division in Smithfield, VA, began using Recapped Super single tires on their trucks. This tire weights much less than the normal tires used in the past. This conversion generates 384 pounds less truck waste than regular tires. Each Recapped tire also costs half as much. The company estimates that it will save $54,000 when all trucks have been converted while at the same time, slashing nearly 17,000 pounds less of waste tires.
Nitrogen in Tires – Kraft is inflating tires with nitrogen to reduce fuel consumption and using new fuel additives that improve fuel efficiency.
Dual Temp Trailers – Sara Lee has a growing fleet of specialized “dual temp” trailers allowing the company to ship refrigerated and frozen products to a customer on a single truck without compromising product standards. Hormel Foods has a similar approach, increasing load factors, using cross docking procedures and shipping higher volumes.