''Ethanol is being promoted as a clean and renewable fuel that will reduce global warming and air pollution,'' said Jacobson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. ''But our results show that a high blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater risk to public health than gasoline, which already causes significant health damage.''
Gasoline vs. ethanol
For the study, Jacobson used a sophisticated computer model to simulate air quality in the year 2020, when ethanol-fueled vehicles are expected to be widely available in the United States.
''The chemicals that come out of a tailpipe are affected by a variety of factors, including chemical reactions, temperatures, sunlight, clouds, wind and precipitation,'' he explained. ''In addition, overall health effects depend on exposure to these airborne chemicals, which varies from region to region. Ours is the first ethanol study that takes into account population distribution and the complex environmental interactions.''
In the experiment, Jacobson ran a series of computer tests simulating atmospheric conditions throughout the United States in 2020, with a special focus on Los Angeles. ''Since Los Angeles has historically been the most polluted airshed in the U.S., the testbed for nearly all U.S. air pollution regulation and home to about 6 percent of the U.S. population, it is also ideal for a more detailed study,'' he wrote.
Jacobson programmed the computer to run air quality simulations comparing two future scenarios:
- A vehicle fleet (that is, all cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc., in the United States) fueled by gasoline, versus
- A fleet powered by E85, a popular blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.
Deaths and hospitalizations
The results of the computer simulations were striking.
''We found that E85 vehicles reduce atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increase two others-formaldehyde and acetaldehyde,'' Jacobson said. ''As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline. However, in some parts of the country, E85 significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog.''
Inhaling ozone-even at low levels-can decrease lung capacity, inflame lung tissue, worsen asthma and impair the body's immune system, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The World Health Organization estimates that 800,000 people die each year from ozone and other chemicals in smog.
''In our study, E85 increased ozone-related mortalities in the United States by about 200 deaths per year compared to gasoline, with about 120 of those deaths occurring in Los Angeles,'' Jacobson said. ''These mortality rates represent an increase of about 4 percent in the U.S. and 9 percent in Los Angeles above the projected ozone-related death rates for gasoline-fueled vehicles in 2020.''
The study showed that ozone increases in Los Angeles and the northeastern United States will be partially offset by decreases in the southeast. ''However, we found that nationwide, E85 is likely to increase the annual number of asthma-related emergency room visits by 770 and the number of respiratory-related hospitalizations by 990,'' Jacobson said. ''Los Angeles can expect 650 more hospitalizations in 2020, along with 1,200 additional asthma-related emergency visits.''
The deleterious health effects of E85 will be the same, whether the ethanol is made from corn, switchgrass or other plant products, Jacobson noted. ''Today, there is a lot of investment in ethanol,'' he said. ''But we found that using E85 will cause at least as much health damage as gasoline, which already causes about 10,000 U.S. premature deaths annually from ozone and particulate matter. The question is, if we're not getting any health benefits, then why continue to promote ethanol and other biofuels?
''There are alternatives, such as battery-electric, plug-in-hybrid and hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles, whose energy can be derived from wind or solar power,'' he added. ''These vehicles produce virtually no toxic emissions or greenhouse gases and cause very little disruption to the land-unlike ethanol made from corn or switchgrass, which will require millions of acres of farmland to mass-produce. It would seem prudent, therefore, to address climate, health and energy with technologies that have known benefits. ''
Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Disarray in the brain
18.12.2017 | Universität zu Lübeck
What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.
Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...
The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...
08.01.2018 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Life Sciences
18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences