RIT Professor Analyzes Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Ferries, Barges and Other Marine Vessels in First-Ever Study




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Greenhouse gas emissions from ferries and other forms of marine transportation are being analyzed for the first time in a study funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Center for Climate Change Research.

Rochester Institute of Technology professor James Winebrake recently won a $99,940 grant from the DOT to quantify greenhouse gases and other pollutants from ferries, barges, ocean-going vessels and ocean-container ships.

The yearlong project will analyze emissions from fuel burned in the vessels themselves and from the extraction, production and delivery of that fuel. RIT public policy graduate student Patrick Meyer and faculty from University of Delaware and University of California at Berkeley make up Winebrake’s research team.

“The marine sector has been ignored for a long time,” says Winebrake, associate professor and chair of RIT’s Science, Technology and Society/Public Policy Department in the College of Liberal Arts.

Emissions from marine transportation are historically hard to track due to different fueling practices and types of vessels used throughout the world. Decades of study have made the same variables easier to identify in automobiles.

“It’s critical to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from marine transportation and to attribute these emissions to various parts of the fuel cycle,” says Winebrake.

Guidelines resulting from Winebrake’s study will help officials untangle tricky questions of responsibility by attributing emissions to other countries on the basis of vessel or fuel cycle.

Winebrake expects his study to reveal the contribution of marine transportation to total emissions in the United States and to distinguish emissions coming from vessels versus the fuel-delivery process. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may use Winebrake’s model as a tool for evaluating emissions from marine transportation when considering local and regional air quality concerns.