Green Group Calls for End to Bunker Fuel Use

Green Group Calls for End to Bunker Fuel Use

For Immediate Release

For more information contact:
Nick Berning, 202-222-0748
Teri Shore, 011 61 449 166 528 (Australia number — until Nov. 20), [email protected]

WASHINGTON — Following two major fuel spills by ocean-going vessels in less than a week, Friends of the Earth-U.S. is calling for a global ban on bunker fuel use in ships. The group has launched a people’s petition to the U. S. Congress to end use of bunker fuels in its waters and is appealing to people and organizations in shipping nations and to the International Maritime Organization to do the same.

“We can’t wait for another bunker fuel spill to drench our beaches and birds,” said Teri Shore, Marine Programs Consultant for Friends of the Earth. “Any further delay in switching to cleaner fuels is negligent at best and criminal at worst.”

The bunker fuel spills by the Hanjin container ship that hit a bridge in San Francisco Bay on Nov. 7 and the Russian oil tanker that broke in half during a storm in the Black Sea on Nov. 11 call attention to the harm caused by bunker fuel when it is spilled. Bunker fuel literally comes from the bottom of the oil barrel. It is the asphalt-like gunk that’s left over after crude oil is refined into gasoline and diesel for cars and trucks and is especially damaging when spilled in accidents.

But even when used as intended — to power cargo and cruise ships — bunker fuel is extremely harmful. This fuel pollutes the air, threatens human health, and causes global warming. Indeed, a study released last week found that more than 60,000 people died worldwide from shipping emissions in 2002, due in large part to the use of bunker fuel, which is more than 1,000 times dirtier than the highway diesel used by trucks and buses. Cleaner marine distillates or biofuels are much less toxic.

With the global shipping trade on track to double by 2030 or before, ending bunker fuel use is more urgent than ever. More ships mean more pollution and the potential for more collisions and spills. Nations have the authority to set the terms of port entry for ships, including use of cleaner fuels.

One bill regarding this subject has already been introduced in Congress. The “Marine Vessel Emission Reductions Act of 2007,” sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) in the Senate and Representative Hilda Solis (D-Ca.) in the House, would require ships to switch to marine distillate fuels while in U.S. waters, essentially banning bunker fuels in the U.S. Friends of the Earth supports this bill. Friends of the Earth-U.S. is a delegate to the International Maritime Organization, where it has been advocating for a switch from bunker to marine distillate fuels. It has recently sued the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate ship fuels and engines, helped Senator Boxer draft the Marine Vessels Emissions Reduction Act of 2007, and petitioned the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

For coverage of the dangers posed by the bunker fuel spilled into the San Francisco Bay, see stories from the Associated Press and San Francisco Chronicle.

Friends of the Earth’s petition can be accessed at /BunkerFuelBan.