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There is growing evidence that chemical reactions in the atmosphere are detrimental to the plant and human growing process.
Low level ozone, known as Tropospheric Ozone, has been shown to inhibit plant growth and can cause cell death. Tropospheric Ozone has also been proven to be harmful to human health causing respiratory ailments and death.
The chemistry involved in understanding Tropospheric Ozone is complex.
Tropospheric Ozone is harmful to life while Stratospheric Ozone is essential to protecting life. This point alone confuses many people. Tropospheric Ozone occurs much closer to the earth's surface; where as, Stratospheric Ozone is high up above the earth's surface. Tropospheric Ozone will never become Stratospheric Ozone. Tropospheric Ozone is "bad ozone" for the duration of its existence. The formation of Tropospheric Ozone occurs under certain conditions that include the combination of air pollutants, sunlight and heat. Auto emissions are a leading cause of human induced Tropospheric Ozone. Global warming is also a human induced contributor to the problem.
In certain cities, on hot, sunny summer days, an "Ozone Alert" is sounded and humans are advised not to go outside. Despite improved fuel efficiency, Tropospheric Ozone levels have not been declining. A massive impact on vegetation is now becoming evident.
As early as 1999, scientists and environmentalists were questioning the effects of ethanol on ozone creation. A report in 2000 by David Morris and Jack Brondum of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance acknowledges benefits but also questions substituting ethanol for MTBE in gasoline. “Ethanol is an attractive fuel with many undisputed environmental and economic development benefits. Yet it suffers from one disadvantage. It raises the volatility of gasoline.”
At the time, this report was trying to suggest that the increased level of ozone was not a problem despite the fact that “Many in the environmental community vigorously oppose this (ethanol additive). They fear that increased hydrocarbon emissions lead to increased ozone levels and adverse public health impacts.”
Those lobbying for ethanol production used the benefits mentioned in the Institute of Local Self-Reliance report to exempt ethanol from clean air emissions standards.
By 1994, the State Of California was in a battle with EPA over ethanol, gasoline and ozone. "If it can be shown that ethanol is creating another air quality issue, then the EPA can grant a waiver," said EPA spokesman John Millett, who described the data being analyzed by engineers and scientists as "painstaking and technical"”
The article in the Orange County Business Journal, Jun 14-Jun 20, 2004 states, "State officials have argued for the past five years that the volatility of ethanol, a fuel blend made from corn that evaporates easily, contributes to smog by increasing ozone levels and adding particulates to the air."
A 2007 study conducted by Mark Jacobson of the a Stanford University civil and environmental engineering department strengthened the argument against using ethanol in gasoline.
"It's not green in terms of air pollution," said Mark Jacobson. "If you want to use ethanol, fine, but don't do it based on health grounds. It's no better than gasoline, apparently slightly worse.You are really spreading out pollution over a larger area."
The Jacobson study notes a large number of deaths attributed to ozone pollution each year and estimates a 5% increase due to ethanol additives.
The impact on plant life is already evident as a higher percentage of trees and vegetation are experiencing ozone related cell damage and death over a larger area.
What To Do?
* The answer is not just to stop using ethanol but to also stop using any fuel that contributes to ozone pollution.
* The average person can support clean electric transportation and nuclear energy.