Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Dream the Impossible


September 1, 2017

In June, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia reaffirmed their pledge to make the twin ports of the San Pedro Bay “global models for cleaner air, sustainability and innovation.”

The two mayors signed a joint declaration that sets goals for the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to transition to “zero” emissions as part of their Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP).

Both mayors reaffirmed their commitment to a goal of zero emissions goods movement at the ports.

The mayors also took the opportunity to announce their participation in the Green Ports Collaborative, a new initiative led by a group that calls itself the Climate Mayors. This group of more than 350 mayors nationwide intends to stand by the Paris Climate accords from which President Trump withdrew earlier this year. The Paris accords call for a reduction in global temperatures and the contribution of $100 billion per year to help developing countries move away from fossil fuels.*

We were intrigued by the idea of cargo moving through ports while producing zero emissions as promised by the mayors. In the past we have noted in this space that the Los Angeles idea of “zero” emissions really means zero local emissions. The Port of Los Angeles will still be using electricity from oil, coal and other carbon-intensive sources.

At press time, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power gets 40 percent of its electricity from coal and 22 percent from natural gas. While an impressive 13 percent comes from solar or wind, it’s a long way from “zero.”

Southern California Edison, which serves Long Beach and part of Los Angeles, says 26 percent of its electricity comes from natural gas and up to 15 percent from solar and wind. The utility claims it gets zero power from coal but 41 percent of its electricity comes from “transactions that are not traceable to specific generation sources.”

This country produces quite a bit of electricity, and California is the 11th largest producer (2.4 quadrillion British Thermal Units). Most of our power in the US comes from natural gas, at almost 34 percent, with coal a close second at 30 percent, followed by nuclear at 20 percent. Wind and solar make up less than 7 percent of the country’s total energy production.

Power is fungible. For example, Washington State imports coal power and exports hydro power because Washington voters in their wisdom declared hydroelectric power a non-renewable form of energy and then voted to require that 15 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable resources. Washington is 20th on the list for power generation at just more than 1 quadrillion BTUs.

What this all means is that cargo transportation will most likely never achieve “zero” emission status, and the goals set by the Paris Climate Accords are almost as unlikely to be met by the Climate Mayors.

Reducing emissions is a laudable goal, but setting goals that can’t be met is pointless. Mayors Garcetti and Garcia, however, might someday be happy to claim that they’ve reached “zero emissions” at their ports as they continue to benefit from “transactions that are not traceable to specific generation sources.”

*$100 billion divided by the current 365 mayors in the group comes out to a $274 million contribution per city.

Chris can be reached at


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