A coalition of environmental groups is asking the Bush administration to use the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from all large ocean-going ships.
Despite the recent growth of the industry, shipping has gotten a free pass on emission regulation. Yet, ships account for 3 to 5 percent of global CO2 emissions — about the same amount the entire U.S. fleet of cars produce.
After winning battles to require emission controls on cars, the global shipping industry, which is expected to double by 2020, is the next logical target for environmental groups.
Currently, ships burn "bunker fuel," a dirty byproduct refineries are left with after making gasoline and diesel. Switching the ships to cleaner-burning marine diesel would significantly decrease CO2 emissions and smog-forming pollution that causes problems in ports.
But environmental groups say the real pollution savings could come from slowing the ships down. One European shipping organization says slowing the speed of its ships by 20 percent would reduce their CO2 emissions by more than half.
Marketplace reporter Sam Eaton talks to Alex Chadwick about the issue and the environmental groups' petition being filed Wednesday.