Despite their popularity, the future for gas-guzzling, inefficient cars doesn’t look promising. As gas prices rise and oil grows scarce, Western nations are scrambling to become self-sufficient in producing their own fuel. In the search for alternative energy sources, ethanol has emerged as a favorite. A recent study by scientists at Stanford University, however, has knocked ethanol from its eco-pedestal.
Although using ethanol as an alternative fuel has been pegged as environmentally sound, scientists found that ethanol may be more hazardous to human health and the planet than conventional petrol. According to the findings, if all cars in the U.S. were run on bioethanol, deaths from asthma and other respiratory illness, as well as ozone levels, would actually increase as a result.
According to the BBC:
In the study, the increase in smog translated to an extra 200 deaths per year in the whole of the US, with 120 occurring in Los Angeles alone.
Increases in ozone in some areas of the US would be offset by decreases in other areas but overall there would be 770 additional visits to accident and emergency and 990 additional hospitalisations for asthma and other respiratory problems, the results showed.
Mark Jacobson, an atmospheric scientist at Stanford University noted that gasoline currently causes about 10,000 premature deaths a year from ozone and particulate matter.
“If we’re not getting any health benefits,” Jacobson asked, “then why continue to promote ethanol and other biofuels?"
Jacobson recommended using battery-electric power and wind energy, which would eliminate the excessive deaths, as well as 98% of the carbon emissions from vehicles.
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