The Market Will Ultimately Cause Ports to Go Green — Not the EPA

I recently came across this announcement (hat-tip World Trade) that the EPA is unveiling an action plan for port sustainability in North America. According to the announcement, "there are more than 70 possible actions, including working with port authorities, their business partners and other sectors of the transportation industry to quantify and reduce air emissions from all sources along the shipping supply chain; setting up state innovative financing funds to help small owner-operators of diesel equipment finance the upgrading or replacement of older, dirtier engines; and collaborating with the international port community on innovative technologies and development of international standards."

In my view, all of this is well and good -- after all, green is in, and who better than the EPA to make some noise to justify their existence -- but the concept of anything resembling a green port is still decades away. And how much impact can the EPA have anyway? My reason for cynicism when the government gets involved is that ports, by nature, are a necessary evil when it comes to the environment and trade. From the dredging required to maintain waterways to the carbon footprint of all of the boats, vehicles, equipment and machinery required to keep them running, they're about as un-green as it gets. Given the private ownership not only of most port infrastructure, the ships, containers, rail, warehousing, and overland components that work together to form a port superstructure, it's unlikely that a government oversight committee or plan will have impact across the various elements. In my view, what is more likely to drive change than the EPA is when companies like Wal-Mart extend their green strategies into logistics and the supply chain. Let's hope the time is near, but I'm not holding my breath.

- Jason Busch

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