As efforts to combat climate change increase worldwide, pollution stemming from maritime shipping presents a particular challenge. The heavy bunker fuels predominantly used by the world’s 90,000 cargo ships are among the dirtiest and highest polluting—a single container ship can emit as many chemicals as an estimated 50 million cars, and marine shipping may account for around 3 to 4 percent of climate change emissions worldwide. With shrinking profit margins and increased regulation of emissions, shippers are looking to alternative fuel sources such as liquefied natural gas (LNG). This month, the offshore supply vessel Harvey Energy became the first U.S. flag vessel to bunker LNG fuel; later this year, TOTE will deliver the first U.S. flag LNG-fueled container ship. While natural gas is a cost-efficient and arguably cleaner fuel alternative, its widespread use in the maritime shipping industry would require considerable infrastructure investment.
On March 3, the Energy Security and Climate Initiative (ESCI) at Brookings hosted a two-panel discussion on the use of LNG as a marine fuel. The first panel looked at evolving policy, regulatory, and environmental factors associated with using LNG as a marine fuel; and the second panel addressed emerging opportunities and barriers to adoption. ESCI Senior Fellow Charles Ebinger provided introductory remarks and then moderated the discussion.