Looking at the numbers used to bolster this scare story about shipping I spot a number that makes me really think quite hard about those very numbers.
OK, I\’m fully willing to agree that shipping tends to use very low grade stuff as bunker fuel. High sulphur stuff especially. I\’m also willing to believe that this is much more polluting, in certain ways, than the fuels we use elsewhere. But I do start to wonder when we start talking about the scale of the problem.
The new study by the Danish government\’s environmental agency adds to this picture. It suggests that shipping emissions cost the Danish health service almost £5bn a year, mainly treating cancers and heart problems.
Seriously? £5 billion a year on the NHS tab would be around 5% of that tab. We may or may not think that a reasonable value for what we get from shipping. But Denmark is a small place. only a few million people, certainly smaller than the population of London. The Danish health budget in total is, if I\’ve got my zeroes properly lined up, around £10 billion. (admittedly, a 2000 AD number but useful to give an idea of scale and at market not PPP exchange rates.)
Saying that shipping emissions cause half of the health care costs in a rich industrialised country doesn\’t really pass the smell test, does it?
One might think that there\’s a certain air of bullshit about this.
Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world\’s biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world\’s 760m cars.
Scary stuff eh? But when you read the details it is as much of one particular pollutant, SOx. Not all pollutants.
The solution proposed is that there should be exclusion zones around Europe, just as the new one around the US. Those who use the high sulphur fuels won\’t be allowed to go into those ports. Sounds more liike a trade protectionist measure to me than anything else. Only the most modern, most expensive, ships will be able to do this, only those belonging to shipping lines from those rich countries.