NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 18, 2007

Ethanol advocates say that it's a clean-burning fuel that is friendly to the environment. But a study by Stanford University atmospheric scientist Mark Z. Jacobson found that if all U.S. vehicles ran on ethanol, the number of respiratory-related deaths and hospitalizations would likely increase.

Jacobson's work, reported in Environmental Science & Technology, involved the simulation of atmospheric conditions throughout the United States in 2020, with a special focus on Los Angeles. According to Jacobson:

  • Research found that E85 vehicles reduce atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increase two others -- formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
  • As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline; However, E85 significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog.
  • The simulations revealed that E85 would increase ozone-related mortalities by about 4 percent in the United States and 9 percent in Los Angeles.
  • In addition, the deleterious health effects of E85 will be the same, whether the ethanol is made from corn, switchgrass or other plant products.

''Today, there is a lot of investment in ethanol,'' Jacobson 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."

Source: "Ethanol Vehicles A Health Hazard," Science A Go Go, April 18, 2007.

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