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Project Summary

In September 2021, MIT’s 12.000 class was assigned the problem of solving “sustainability and equity in global transportation”. The goal was to tackle both the largest form of transportation, ships, and the largest polluters of freight transport, trucks, focusing specifically on tackling air pollutant emissions.[1]Richtie, Hannah. 2020. “Cars, Planes, Trains: Where Do CO2 Emissions from Transport Come from? – Our World in Data.” October 6, 2020. How can we improve the long-distance freight transport process to reduce air pollution, particularly greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Oxides (SOx), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and Particulate Matter (PM), while balancing equity and economic concerns? See below for more information on transportation-specific solutions…..

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Problems in Transport Today

Freight transport is becoming even more critical in the global economy with globalization and advances in technology. The environmental impact of freight transport, however, is huge, with 7% of global carbon emissions attributed to freight transport.[2]“The Carbon Footprint of Global Trade: Tackling Emissions from International Freight Transport.” International Transport Forum, 2015.

Freight transport has many non-climate related environmental impacts, including habitat fragmentation and air, water, and noise pollution. Additionally, economics and equity issues are greatly impacted by freight transport, such as port inefficiency or poor working conditions.

The Solution(s)

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Ships carry 70% of US merchandise trade (an in imports and exports) as measured by weight.[3]“Logistics and Transportation Spotlight.” Logistics & Transportation Industry | International Trade Administration. Accessed November 16, 2021. … Continue reading Boats burn heavy oil fuel which produces harmful emissions such as CO2, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur oxides.[4]“Cutting GHG Emissions from Shipping – 10 Years of Mandatory Rules.” International Maritime Organization. Accessed November 18, 2021. … Continue reading We propose ships switch to using a cleaner fuel known as methanol fuel to combat this problem.

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Ports act as connections between different modes of transport, facilitating container movement between ships and trucks. They are responsible for processing 70-80% of global trade but also produce greenhouse gas and particulate matter emissions.[5]Brown, Courtenay. “Pandemic side effect: America’s backed up ports,” March 12, 2021. We propose electrification of port equipment and various improvements in energy management.

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Trucking is responsible for 24% of emissions from the transportation sector.[6]US EPA, OAR. “Fast Facts on Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” Overviews and Factsheets, August 25, … Continue reading Class 8 trucks typically run on diesel, which produce emissions such as CO2, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. We propose switching diesel trucks to electric trucks to enable more sustainable trucking.[7]U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Average In-Use Emissions from Heavy Duty Trucks – Emission Facts,” 2008. … Continue reading