There has been a great deal of talk about the promise of ethanol-based gasoline as an efficient renewable fuel; President Bush has pushed ethanol development in the U.S. recently, and Brazil is ready to cash in even more in this developing market. However, the production of ethanol consumes a great deal of energy, and releases its share of CO2 in the atmosphere (more about this to come).
Further, an article today in the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted a study released by atmospheric scientists at Stanford University concerning some other important risks associated with large scale ethanol production and consumption.
The study shows a significant projected rise in ozone-related deaths, as ethanol (specifically E85) is NOT a low carbon fuel and its byproducts when it is combusted pose serious threats, especially in urban areas. **ethanol releases ozone, as well as formaldehyde, ormaldehyde and acetaldehyde, plus benzene and butadiene** All of these are carcinogens (you may recognize the chemical formaldehyde as a preserving agent seen in many labs – one that you’re not encouraged to ingest for long amounts of time!).
A great deal of our greenhouse gas emitting behavior stems from transportation. It seems that ethanol is not the best choice for large scale public and private investment; we may do better to pursue fuel cells and other electric means of transportation that can ultimately be powered by renewable sources such as wind and solar – to reduce our dependence on nonrenewable, polluting resources as much as possible.