I wanted to share some thoughts in regard to Rick Hughes’ guest column about upgrading the ferry fleet. Obviously this should be a priority for the state, however, before just building more boats that break down we should look at alternatives.
The new boats that have been recently delivered don’t seem much more reliable than the older boats. While I agree in principle that the boats should be built in Washington, I am not sure that gives us the best and most cost effective result. You have to look no farther than the benches aboard the new very expensive boats that are built with 2” X 4”’s that are uncomfortable to sit on.
Secondly, we should be looking towards the future and new technology. The design of these boats has really not changed since the 1920s. Are the hulls and power plants the best design for the job? I have no idea, but before building 13 more boats that are not efficient, possibly we should have a design competition to see if there is a better solution. Does a better boat in use somewhere else in the world already exist?
Finally, when looking for future solutions for transportation we should also include energy. I recently watched a video that was shown at Davos Economic Forum. The video was called “Energy at the end of the world” by Laura Watts. It is about the fact that The Orkney Islands produce 140 percent of the power they need from tidal, wind and hydrogen. The hydrogen they produce is used to run their ferry fleet.
While something this ambitious would require “a moonshot approach” to energy and transportation, what better place to try this experiment than the San Juans? This would fit in nicely with the proposed “Green New Deal,” and I would think we could get the Governor excited about it as well as progressives in Washington, DC.
Please take the time to watch the video.
Paul Le Baron
San Juan Island