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An inland port we can all agree on — today and 18 years from now

The area at I-80 near 7200 West where the Utah Inland Port is planned to be built in Salt Lake City is pictured on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Much has been said about Utah’s inland port and the potential impact on our state. Perhaps the most vocal have been those concerned about increased air pollution and what that does to our quality of life and our health. But what hasn’t been given as much attention are the effects air pollution has on Utah’s fastest growing businesses.

Utah’s job engine is driven by clean, high-tech, software, big-data, automation technologies, manufacturing, fulfillment and service industries (and not mining, refining or extractive industries). These clean businesses can prosper here because we have access to a creative, highly educated workforce. Utah’s diverse talent pool expects not only clean air but also appreciates Utah’s outdoor opportunities and access to public lands.

Today’s air pollution already limits Utah’s economy. We are paying a high price in health impacts, and in Utah’s ability to compete for talent. A highly talented workforce just doesn’t want to live in a polluted airshed.

Now, let’s add the dynamics created by the fourth industrial revolution to understand what Utah’s economy will look like 11-18 years from now. The fourth industrial revolution is a digital transformation of our society and economy; it is a 30-year transformation and we are roughly 12 years into it. Utah’s real estate, including the inland port, needs to be usable and profitable in a post-fourth-industrial economy.

These are the characteristics of an inland port we can all agree to:

Zero emissions transportation to and from the port

  • Trains to and from the inland port will be electrified as soon as they enter the Wasatch Front airshed. This technology exists today in the form of overhead power lines and batteries. Did you know that all freight trains in the U.S. today are actually driven electrically? The diesel engines on trains are only used to power an electric generator which powers the electric motors driving the wheels. Batteries, hydrogen and overhead electricity can immediately replace this antiquated and polluting system.
  • Semitrucks and trains can be recharged quickly with electricity at every facility in the inland port, but only if these design considerations are incorporated now.
  • All employees working in the inland port need to have access to workplace recharging ports for their zero-emission cars, SUVs and trucks.

Zero emissions from real estate/buildings in the inland port

  • All buildings should be cooled and heated with heat pumps. This technology exists today and is cheaper to operate than burning natural gas.

Energy generation on site

  • All buildings/facilities can produce electricity on the roof and the facades. The energy generated onsite is then used to power trains, semitrucks and employees going to and from work.

Only a zero-emission inland port will be able to compete in a post-fourth-industrial revolution economy. Let’s be bold. Let’s embrace the future. Let’s do the job right so that businesses want to remain along the Wasatch Front — today and 18 years from now.

Hanko Kiessner is the founder and CEO of Packsize International LLC, an on-demand packaging manufacturing and technology company. He also is the co-founder of Leaders for Clean Air, a nonprofit committed to improving Utah’s air quality by promoting electric vehicle technology.