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Dispatch From the Director: The Logarithmic Expansion of Transportation Sustainability

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Denver Transportation Institute

News  •
david fisher

When anything moves out of the realm of completely observable and knowable and starts growing in multiple directions, we think of that phenomena as expansion. This is what is happening in the transportation world right now; where this is occurring is in the amount of activity related to sustainability.

For over 100 years, the entire global transportation industry has had a symbiotic and constructive relationship with the oil and coal industries. However, consider the news last week that Maersk will be converting an initial eight of its vessels into methanol/bunker oil hybrids. These conversions will cost a lot but save a million tons of CO2 emissions per year.

That was big news. But there were other recent announcements that received hardly any press at all:

  • News: Volvo has started taking delivery of fossil-free produced steel. The iron and steel sectors’ emissions of CO2 are measured in gigatons per year.
  • News: Nearly every auto manufacturer has also gone public with core strategies to manufacture a majority of their cars as electric or hybrids within the next 10 years.
  • News: Rivian, an all-electric manufacturer that has not even started practical production yet, is valued on par with other major automotive manufactures including Tesla.
  • News: Hyzon Motors, a company most have not heard of, has started deliveries of heavy-duty hydrogen trucks to European customers. They are aiming at North America next also investing in commercial grade hydrogen hubs. Nearly all major over-the-road shipping companies are experimenting with hydrogen and electric hybrids.
  • News: All seven of the class-1 railroads have agreed to take part in the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and collectively have ambitious goals to reduce emissions by approximately 30% by 2030.
  • News: Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway quietly announced that they would partner with Lightning, a company that builds fully electric powertrains for buses and other commercial transport equipment. They have orders on the books for an initial 7500 shuttle buses.
  • Not to be forgotten, news also about Exxon Mobil making their own transition by investing and advancing the development of biofuel production. Its latest breakthrough will allow them to produce 10,000 barrels of biofuel per day.

When big Oil and Gas is innovating on this scale, it is obvious that this global sustainability and CO2 reduction transition is real.

Sustainability is not a fad-du-jour. It has made the evolution to big and important commercial strategies. Is it enough to fend off, or at least contain, global warming? Time will tell. In the meantime, however, big money is declaring its sincere intent to make an impact.

Here at the Transportation Institute at the University of Denver, we are excited about these developments in the industry. We support change that addresses and mitigates the impact of climate change. Accordingly, our role is to support climate-oriented industry developments by actively enriching our content around sustainability and the interesting commercial advantages available by mode. This ensures that leaders graduating from the Institute’s program will support measurable progress and the science of an improving world.