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ON THE HORIZON

What Is Your Company’s

Carbon Footprint?

Fuel consumed by commercial trucks primary source of carbon emissions

BY MIKE TUNNELL

Guest Writer

While the politics of “climate change”

ebb and flow, one offshoot of this debate is a growing awareness of carbon emissions, particularly those generated from the supply chain. Carbon emissions, primarily in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), are generated from the combustion of fuel. With nearly 30 million commercial trucks registered in the United States, the fuel consumed by these trucks is the primary source of carbon emissions from the trucking industry. Late last year, the U.S. Environmental

Protection Agency (EPA) recognized that the reporting of carbon emissions could be better tracked by fuel suppliers than by trucking companies and, consequently, did not require trucking companies to report their carbon emissions. Despite this decision, carbon accounting continues to be an issue for trucking companies as a growing number of shippers seek to identify the carbon impacts of their supply chains. In response, trucking companies are being asked to identify the carbon emissions associated with these shipments. For many trucking companies, the U.S.

EPA SmartWay Partnership’s FLEET model is the most widely recognized tool for quantifying carbon emissions. This model calculates the carbon emissions generated from a company’s on-road vehicle fleet. A company’s carbon footprint doesn’t necessarily end there, though. Based upon a comprehensive review of carbon accounting tools, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) evaluated the applicability of these tools to the trucking industry to identify potential sources of carbon emissions. A company’s carbon emissions are

generally divided into three distinct classifications or scopes. Scope 1 includes direct emissions from the combustion of fuel as well as evaporative fluorocarbon emissions associated with the use of refrigerants. Potential Scope 1 emission sources include:

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• Trucks and ancillary equipment used to transport freight, such as those accounted for in the SmartWay model;

• Mobile equipment used at company facilities, such as yard tractors and forklifts;

• Stationary equipment used at company facilities, such as furnaces and other on-site fuel-burning equipment; and

• Air conditioning and/or refrigeration systems used in trucks and trailers as well as at company facilities.

Carbon emission factors for the various

types of fuels and refrigerants used in this equipment are generally available; however, subtle differences exist among the various accounting tools. For instance, the emission factors for biodiesel were not consistent while leakage rates among refrigerants varied by a factor of five. Obviously, some

ROADWISE | APRIL 2010 | www.mttrucking.org

refinements to these methodologies are needed to improve their applicability to the trucking industry. The next classification, known as Scope

2, includes the indirect emissions associated with the purchase and use of electricity. Even though the direct emissions associated with producing electricity will occur at a power plant, the indirect emissions occurring at a facility are reported as part of a company’s total carbon emissions. Carbon emission factors for the purchase of electricity are available for locations through the United States. According to these factors, the carbon generated from electricity purchased in one part of the country can be twice as high as the electricity purchased in another part of the country. As with real estate, location is a key factor in determining the carbon emissions produced through the use of electricity. Finally, Scope 3 is an optional reporting

classification which includes the upstream and downstream emissions associated

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