A single container ship produces more pollution than all the cars in the UK

Container ships run on the dregs of crude oil.

When all the higher quality fuels like petrol, diesel and kerosene have been extracted, you’re left with a black, tarry mess called bunker fuel. This is what container ships burn.

As you may expect, bunker fuel is incredibly polluting.

Back in 2009, confidential data was released showing one container ship produces as much pollution as 50 million cars.

To put that into perspective, there are only 31.3 million cars in the entire of the UK.

It’s estimated there are around 1.4 billion cars in the world. So 28 cargo ships produce as much pollution as all the cars in the world.

When I started researching this article, I had no idea just how much pollution shipping produces.

To discover that a single cargo ship makes more pollution than all the cars in the UK has really taken me aback. And not just a bit more, 60% more.

I guess there are two ways you could look at those numbers.

  1. There is absolutely no point cutting down on the UK’s car use. Even if the UK banned cars altogether, that gain would be more than offset by the building of a single new cargo ship.
  2. If the shipping industry could switch to a different fuel source, or modify its boats to produce fewer emissions, it would massively cut down on the world’s pollution.

Number one is kind of just a fun stat to know. I imagine you could really take the wind out of someone’s sails in an argument with that statistic – so long as you can back it up with facts (here and here).

But that would be discounting the very real effect car pollution has on people’s lives.

Yes, in terms of climate change, it seems pretty pointless to tell people in the UK to drive less. But certainly not in terms of our health.

Living near a busy road increases your risk of dementia by 40% (link).

From the Guardian:

The new findings add to a growing body of recent research on the wide-ranging effects of air pollution. Earlier this week, Unicef warned of the risk to children from the “toxic” school run, while evidence that particles of pollutants can cross into placentas has just been published.

A ground-breaking study from China recently found a “huge” reduction in intelligence associated with breathing dirty air, equivalent to losing a year’s education.

I’ve cycled through rush hour in London almost every day for the past eight years. I have probably already breathed in more than twice as much pollution as the average UK citizen does in a lifetime.

I have massively increased my risk of all manner of pollution-related diseases: cancer, dementia, respiratory problems – you name it.

And in the process, it looks like I have been reducing my intelligence. Perhaps that’s why I continue to do it. I’m now too stupid to realise how bad for me it is.

So from a personal point of view, I really would like people to cut down on car emissions – although its buses and HGVs that make you cough the most.

And if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that the UK is moving more and more towards electric cars.

Over the next two decades we are switching, along with most of Europe, to a fully electric system. By 2040 all new petrol and diesel cars will be banned.

If you want to know more about the electric car revolution, check out the cars section of my five key tech trends for 2019 here.

Too late to save my brain, but not too late to save the kids being born today.

That brings us on to perspective number two.

So, what exactly is the shipping industry doing to combat its appetite for pollution? Well, that’s what tomorrow’s Exponential Investor is about.

But just before I go, I wanted to let you know that you can now get a copy of my publisher, Nick O’Connor’s book, The Exponentialist for free.

His aim for the book was to, “deliver valuable information and help give readers an advantage in the markets. I wanted them to understand that moving ahead of great change could result in generating great personal wealth.”

Did he achieve his goal? Download your free copy now and judge for yourself.
Until next time,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Energy

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