The International Maritime Organization’s standards to cap sulfur emissions in shipping fuels will take effect in a matter of months. These “IMO 2020” standards represent good policy that protects the environment while simultaneously strengthening U.S. jobs, promoting economic growth and enhancing America’s global energy dominance.
Established more than a decade ago, IMO 2020 standards will reduce the sulfur content in shipping fuel from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent by weight. With implementation fast approaching, the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee met for their 74th session in London in May. At the meeting, IMO members, including the United States, signaled continued progress toward timely implementation of the standards.
In the United States, we are seeing similar positive signs. U.S. Coast Guard officials, including Adm. John Nadeau, have stated that IMO 2020 enforcement will begin as planned. Because the United States already implements, enforces and benefits from sulfur standards that are five times more stringent than IMO 2020, we are well prepared to comply with the new standards.
The latest analyses reiterate what we knew when we launched the Coalition for American Energy Security: our country is ready for IMO 2020.
Energy and Environmental Research Associates recently released a white paper co-authored by James J. Corbett and Edward W. Carr of the University of Delaware outlining the economic benefits of IMO 2020 and highlighting America’s readiness for the standards. According to the paper, “The global shift to cleaner fuels serves U.S. interests, both economic and environmental.”
The United States is uniquely positioned with structural advantages — such as an abundance of liquefied natural gas and light, sweet crude oil — that better position us against foreign competitors, many of which are not equipped with the ability to produce low-sulfur fuel and have yet to invest in necessary infrastructure upgrades to do so. EERA’s research notes that “increased distillate fuel demand due to IMO 2020 can be met by the robust supply of U.S. resources and the ability to expand refining capacity.”
Thousands of American workers are already benefiting from the high-paying jobs offered by U.S. refineries, and our ability to ramp up refining capacity in response to IMO 2020 will strengthen these jobs and stimulate the economy. For instance, IMO 2020 standards can help to re-open the previously closed Limetree Bay refinery in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This alone would generate $600 million in tax revenue and more than 2,000 jobs within the next 10 years.
U.S. refineries are prepared for IMO 2020 standards because of $100 billion of investments in facility upgrades. Timely implementation ensures that these heavy investments are not undercut by foreign competitors having the opportunity to catch up. The Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University has emphasized this, stating that “delay would harm those shippers and refiners that have been ahead of the curve preparing to comply, which disproportionately include American businesses.”
Delay would threaten the opportunity for us to dominate this new global market for low-sulfur fuel. That explains the diverse coalition of manufacturing workers, integrated energy companies, refiners, industry associations, shipping companies, and other groups that are playing a crucial role in educating decision-makers on the benefits and market opportunities that IMO 2020 brings to American industries.
A group of senators recently wrote in a letter to President Trump that “implementing and enforcing these standards will fuel America’s growing energy dominance and could place the U.S. at a distinct advantage to our global competitors. … These standards will benefit workers, consumers, manufacturers, and the country as a whole.”
We couldn’t agree more. Timely and full implementation of IMO 2020 will be an essential part of America’s growing energy dominance, which means more jobs, greater energy security, and a better environment.