Friday, October 10, 2008

Smokestacks at sea

Last week, an old friend called me to gloat over Governor Schwarzenegger's veto of Senate Bill 974. This friend, who I will call Rutherford, works in the world of shipping. He was delighted that Arnold had apparently taken the advice of his fellow Republican governors -- Linda Lingle and Sarah Palin -- and rejected pollution fees for container ships for the second time. My friend Rutherford agreed with their analysis that even a $30 fee per ship would make U.S. ports less competitive and raise prices for consumers. Fair enough, though I think the weak dollar is a larger problem.

Since I also know many of the people who were down in the trenches alligator wrestling over the bill language for the last four years, I was hard pressed to share Rutherford's glee, though I appreciated the chance to catch up. But now it looks like his ships will be forced to cut their pollution after all, though on a much longer timescale. The International Maritime Organization just approved rules to cut sulfur emissions from ships over the next twelve years. The target is bunker fuel, a dirty beast you may remember from last year's Cosco Busan crash in San Francisco Bay. At the time, there was much debate over whether or not newer, cleaner fuels would have caused as many problems as the Busan's bunker fuel. I guess we'll find out.

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