Superferry footprint findings: on inconvenient truthiness

cherry picking

Environment-Hawaii's Pat Tummins was kind enough to include SusHI in her commentary on the Superferry, and went on to feature Jeff Mikulina and Brad Parsons regarding this boat’s "extravagant carbon footprint".

Tummins didn't mention my preliminary finding that the ferry beats inter-island flying emissions by 5-to-1, perhaps because she didn't see it...since Parsons edited it out of his anti-ferry blog.

Parsons claims (via email) he left out my calculation of 'emissions per ton-mile' because "it would just confuse most readers."

Either way, it's far from clear that HSF is worse than airlines, as some folks want you to believe.

You decide whether Parsons is avoiding confusion or "cherry-picking". Here's my (unedited) post:

"I'm more focused on inter-island transport, and am interested in HSF versus flying. So, try this:

We know that a round-trip flight from Lihu`e to Honolulu spews 264 pounds of CO2 per passenger (via atmosfair).

The EIS forecasts 363,000 HSF passengers in 2010 (the year when total GHGs are estimated at 96,000 short tons).

If these passengers flew instead, they would spew 48,000 short tons, or one-half of HSF total emissions." (Note: Parsons put that last bit in BOLD red, then cut these next two sentences...)

"Yet, passengers make up roughly 10% of the HSF forecasted weight carried (which I estimate at 287,000 short tons).

This suggests a 5-to-1 advantage for HSF passenger-only emissions versus flying."

Here's Parsons on why he cut this conclusion:

"I felt like that last point was confusing the issue. Bottom line is HSF puts out twice the GHG emissions of a jet flight per passenger. Dividing that down by weight would just confuse most readers."

Oh, and, speaking of confusion, Tummins DID quote Mikulina's comment that the ferry's emissions would be "the equivalent of adding 26,500 cars to Hawaii". (Uh, that would be BEFORE subtracting the emissions saved by not flying, right Jeff?)

As I commented (via email) to Parsons and Mikulina, "I appreciate Jeff's calculation, yet what does this 'added-cars' metric tell us? We need apples-to-apples metrics, like yesterday!"

...Metrics like 'emissions-per-ton-mile', which is commonly-used in footprinting. Or, would that be too confusing?

"Sad, yeah", said I regarding "the state of practice in measuring our Hawai`i footprint...`Auwe!"

I added, "of course, any meaningful comparative statements presume we have some confidence in the GHG metrics for this boat, as provided by this EIS (which I don't)", and Parsons naturally included that bit.

Parsons apparently wants you to believe that since folks "don’t really need to move their personal cars quickly for leisure 100+ miles between islands", we should ignore the cars' weight and assign all the emissions to the passengers.

Using the same logic, we might argue that the only thing we really need to move quickly between islands is the U.S. Mail, and thus we should assign all the emissions of flying to the airlines' mail cargo.

To her credit, Tummins thoughtfully critiques the recent anti-superferry book, calling it "sloppy...self-serving...Kauai-centric". Let's see if Parsons posts that.

Mind you, I'm NOT pro-ferry! Instead, I passionately support measures to reduce our transport footprint by any means necessary.

And let's hope these folks care more about getting the sustainability metrics right than about scoring debate points.

(BTW, good buddy Andrea Brower pens a thoughtful piece on " the way the democratic process was completely discarded" in the HSF approval process...which is also a profound concern.)

Published by Ken on February 5th, 2009 tagged Ecological Footprint, Transport


4 Responses to “Superferry footprint findings: on inconvenient truthiness”

  1. Kauaibrad Says:

    Got an easy answer for ya' Ken.

    When comparing carbon footprints we need to be comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

    We should agree that the carbon footprint for transporting passengers is at least twice that for the Superferry compared to an interisland jet.

    Where we disagreed is that you wanted to further compare the Superferry to jets for weight or cargo. It took me a while of thinking about it, but for comparing carbon emissions based on weight or cargo transported we should be comparing Superferry's emissions to that of Young Brothers. Young Brothers transports a lot more cargo than Aloha Air Cargo, and it is my contention that that is what you should more representatively compare Superferry to for cargo or weight transport.

    If you do that calculation accurately, I am confident it will show that Superferry has a much greater carbon footprint than Young Brothers. The reason is because Superferry is burning a lot more fuel with more engine power doing the same transit a lot faster, faster than is economically justifiable.

    There you go, Ken.

    Aloha, Brad

  2. Kauaibrad Says:

    Got an easy answer for ya’ Ken.

    When comparing carbon footprints we need to be comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.

    We should agree that the carbon footprint for transporting passengers (per passenger) is at least twice that for the Superferry compared to an interisland jet.

    Where we disagreed is that you wanted to further compare the Superferry to jets for weight or cargo. It took me a while of thinking about it, but for comparing carbon emissions based on weight or cargo transported we should be comparing Superferry’s emissions to that of Young Brothers. Young Brothers transports a lot more cargo than Aloha Air Cargo, and it is my contention that that is what you should more representatively compare Superferry to for cargo or weight transport.

    If you do that calculation accurately, I am confident it will show that Superferry has a much greater carbon footprint than Young Brothers (per given weight of cargo). The reason is because Superferry is burning a lot more fuel with more engine power doing the same transit a lot faster (than Young Brothers), faster than is economically justifiable (now and even more so in the future).

    There you go, Ken.

    Aloha, Brad

  3. Kauaibrad Says:

    Ken Taylor sent this to me recently:

    From: http://www.foe.org/air-and-water/ferries-and-ports

    Fast Ferries: Clean Water Transit or More Dirty Diesel?

    Ferry Pollution The next generation of commuter and passenger ferries must be at least 10 times cleaner than today's in order to achieve clean water transit. Speeding across waterways, fast ferries spew more dangerous pollutants into the air than either cars or transit buses - four to nine times more per passenger mile. Without use of cleaner fuels and technologies, by 2007, ferry air pollution will grow to 100 to 1,000 times more polluting per passenger mile. While cars and buses have become 97 percent cleaner in recent decades, ferries continue to foul the air with toxic exhaust from dirty diesel engines.

  4. Ken Says:

    Good thing Tim Dick didn't buy those boats for the Hawaii market.