Ships slow down to speed up progress

We read in a recent New York Times article that Danish shipping company Maersk was proud that their container ship Ebba Maersk took over a month to steam from Germany to China – a week longer than it took two years ago.  According to Maersk, “that counts as progress.”

Why? Because Maersk cut down on costs by as much as 30 percent with reduced fuel consumption and achieved an equal cut in the ships’ emissions of greenhouse gases.  Though contrary to natural inclinations in a society used to getting whatever they want, usually as fast as possible, in its corporate client presentation Maersk advises, “Going at full throttle is economically and ecologically questionable.”

The implications of this brave company’s environmentally responsible actions are vast. As the article explains, “planes could easily reduce emissions by slowing down 10 percent, for example, adding just five or six minutes to a flight” and “simply driving at 55 instead of 65 miles per hour cuts carbon dioxide emissions of American cars by about 20 percent.”

Though slowing down seems counter to the idea of moving forward, that is exactly what ships, planes and cars should do in the name of environmental efficiency.