Aug 24, 2018

How to cut CO2 from heavy trucking

Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images

A new paper from Carnegie Mellon University didn't get much attention, but it tackles a huge topic: the challenge of cutting carbon emissions from the energy-hungry trucking sector.

One takeaway is that trains can play a big role, but that would require a reversal of freight industry trends worldwide that favor highways.

Why it matters: Moving freight around uses lots of oil and spews lots of greenhouse gases.

  • Heavy trucking accounts for about a third of all carbon emissions from transportation, and road freight could account for 40% global oil demand growth over the next three decades, according to the International Energy Agency.
  • "Rail intermodal transportation holds great potential for replacing carbon-intense and fast-growing road freight, but it is essential to have a targeted design of freight systems, particularly in developing countries," states the paper in Environmental Research Letters.

The big picture: Several strategies in concert are needed to cut carbon from heavy trucking — greater efficiency, electrification, lower-CO2 fuels, changes in supply chain management and more, the paper finds.

  • "You need to push on all the levers," co-author Parth Vaishnav says.
  • Lead author Lynn Kaack similarly emphasizes making trucking cleaner and moving freight off the roads. “You definitely need both for deeper decarbonization,” she tells Axios.

Where it stands: It's a tough problem, and here are a couple reasons why: current battery technology and economics aren't well-suited to long-haul routes, and very low-carbon liquid fuel replacements for diesel aren't yet mature either.

  • “In the medium-term, the most promising strategy might be a shift from road to rail,” Vaishnav says.
  • Right now, trucks handle about 60% of freight movement, and that's growing in most countries amid a "shift from rail to road," the study says.

What's next: It finds a "clear need for a systematic assessment" of the worldwide potential for shifting freight movement back towards rail, and the cost and emissions cuts associated with it.

The bottom line: "Cost-effective GHG emissions reductions for the transportation sector may be available but in today's markets will likely not lead to the levels of decarbonization that are needed to slow climate change," the paper states.

  • "Thus, additional policies that include either incentives for reductions or penalties for GHG emissions will be needed."

Go deeper: Trucks are fueling the world's oil demand.

Go deeper

Situational awareness

Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Catch up on today's biggest news:

  1. Mike Bloomberg offers to release women from 3 NDAs
  2. Wells Fargo to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges
  3. Bloomberg campaign says Tennessee vandalism "echoes language" from Bernie supporters
  4. Scoop: New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers
  5. Nearly half of Republicans support pardoning Roger Stone

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $3 billion to settle consumer abuse charges

Clients use an ATM at a Wells Fargo Bank in Los Angeles, Calif. Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Wells Fargo agreed to a pay a combined $3 billion to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday for opening millions of fake customer accounts between 2002 and 2016, the SEC said in a press release.

The big picture: The fine "is among the largest corporate penalties reached during the Trump administration," the Washington Post reports.

Bloomberg offers to release women from 3 nondisclosure agreements

Mike Bloomberg. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Mike Bloomberg said Friday his company will release women identified to have signed three nondisclosure agreements so they can publicly discuss their allegations against him if they wish.

Why it matters, via Axios' Margaret Talev: Bloomberg’s shift in policy toward NDAs comes as he tries to stanch his loss of female support after the Las Vegas debate. It is an effort to separate the total number of harassment and culture complaints at the large company from those directed at him personally. That could reframe the criticism against him, but also protect the company from legal fallout if all past NDAs were placed in jeopardy.