Hundreds of pages of bureaucratic micromanaging of the economy, all in the name of fighting global warming, make up the Environental Protection Agency’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). Many of the agency’s ideas for reducing energy use and resultant greenhouse gas emissions seem unreasonable, to put it mildly. However, the effort to redesign ships is in a class by itself.
EPA states that “innovative strategies for reducing hull friction include coatings with textures similar to marine animals and reducing water/hull contact by enveloping the hull with small air bubbles released from the sides and bottom of the ship.” The agency also suggests, as auxiliary power sources, “fuel cells, solar power, wind power, and even wave power.” EPA doesn’t say whether wind power means ships with wind turbines or a return to the use of sailing ships that dominated the seas up through the 19th century.
Who knows, maybe EPA is right and sharkskin sailboats oozing bubbles will transform the shipping industry. But on the off chance regulators at EPA aren’t as good at designing ships as the folks who actually do it for a living, the ANPR has a 120-day comment period. Perhaps EPA’s suggestions will spark useful comments from shipbuilders, as well as comments from the many other sectors of the economy also covered.