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Study Shows Ethanol Fuel May Harm Environment

April 24, 2007

LOS ANGELES – Though touted as a greenhouse-gas-cutting fuel, ethanol would have serious health effects if heavily used in cars, producing more ground-level ozone than gasoline, particularly in the Los Angeles Basin, according to a Stanford University study. “Ethanol is being promoted as a clean and renewable fuel that will reduce global warming and air pollution,” said Mark Jacobson, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, in remarks reported by the Los Angeles Times. “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.” Jacobson authored the Stanford University study published in the online edition of Environmental Science and Technology. Ozone, a key ingredient in smog, can harm lungs, aggravate asthma and impair immune systems when inhaled even at low levels. The study determined that a 9-percent increase in ozone-related deaths would occur in Greater Los Angeles and a 4-percent increase nationally by 2020 if a form of ethanol called E-85 were used instead of gasoline, the Times reported. In the Southeast, by contrast, mortality rates would decrease slightly. Jacobson used a computer model to simulate air quality in 2020, when ethanol-fueled vehicles are expected to be widely available in the United States, with a focus on Los Angeles, the Times reported.
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