Solar powered oil tankers? The last word in greenwash

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A design is unveiled for a new oil tanker powered by sails and solar, and a little gas.

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Would a solar-powered oil tanker be the ultimate in greenwash? This was the question put by VentureBeat late last week as it profiled a project to create a “solar hybrid supertanker”.

As VentureBeat noted, pay no attention to the 2 million barrels of oil inside this ship, delivering oil to the cars that will burn them and then spew the emissions into the atmosphere, take a look at the supertanker’s sails! And its solar panels! “If the ship is ever built, you can bet that some big oil company will be using it to tout its “green” credentials in short order,” VentureBeat noted.

The design has been released by Richard Sauter of Sauter Carbon Offset Design, which seeks to create ships that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 50 and 100 per cent by using all the technology available. Shipping has become one of the hot topics of international greenhouse gas emissions reductions, because like aviation, they are growing rapidly and have not been covered by an individual schemes. So far, though, little progress has been made.

Still, the International Maritime Organization, along with entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson and green technology company Wartstila believe its realistic to achieve a 75 per cent reduction. They have been working on a range of designs to achieve that, but for sheer irony, the oil tanker wins out.

According to VentureBeat, the ship is a 330,000 dead weight tonnage tanker that runs runs on wind, sun and some LNG. It boasts a “bubble hull” developed by Mitsubishi that creates less drag, a hybrid LNG/solar gas developed by Wartsila, and sails created by DynaWing that can create 20MW of energy.

The ship will cost around 15 per cent more than usual but will offer savings of $60 million a year in fuel, Sauter says. Which means the oil companies will have more fuel to sell – just like the Middle Eastern states which are looking to install solar farms, to reduce their use of subsidized oil so more can be sold on the international markets at higher prices.

 

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