E85 Health Report Disputed
Phil Lampert, Executive Director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, responds to a recent health report about the potential health and pollution risks of e85 ethanol. The report warns of possible cancer and ozone-related health consequences of a large-scale conversion from gasoline to ethanol, comparing the effects of gasoline vehicle emissions with those from ethanol fuel. Lampert argues that the report’s negative conclusions are unrealistic and he maintains that the NEVC will continue to support the use of e85 as a fuel source, along with all other fuel alternatives like biodiesel, propane, compressed natural gas, electricity, hydrogen and other yet-to-be defined fuels.
National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition
To: NEVC Board, Members and interested persons
From: Phil Lampert, Executive Director
Re: Recent E85 Health Effects Analysis
Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University, Stanford, Ca., recently published a report titled Effects of Ethanol (E85) Versus Gasoline Vehicles on Cancer and Mortality in the United States.
A copy of the report can be found at:
Unfortunately, this report has received a great deal of press attention, most of which has been negative. Let’s look at the report and some of the facts associated with the conclusions.
Here are the operative statements in the report:
- It was found that E85 (85 percent ethanol fuel, 15 percent gasoline) may increase ozone-related mortality.
- Due to its ozone effects, future E85 may be a greater overall public health risk than gasoline.
- Unburned ethanol emissions from E85 may result in a global-scale source of acetaldehyde larger than that of direct emissions.
- The report also states that “since ethanol itself contains 5 percent gasoline as a denaturant”¦” (This is an incorrect statement. Federal regulations require no less than 2 percent nor any more than 5 percent denaturant, the vast majority is being shipped with 2 percent.)
Additionally, the author fails to take into consideration the adoption of PZEV emission requirements and what impact that will have on both exhaust and evaporative emissions.
- The basic assumption of the study is that in the year 2020, all existing motor vehicles will be operating on E85. This is neither technologically feasible nor legal given the fact that there are no approved conversion kits currently available.
- The author assumes that by 2020 all vehicles, both on-road and off-road, will be using E85. The use of E85 in off-road vehicles is neither practical nor feasible.
- In 2001, the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association published air toxics lifecycle emissions modeling (Winebrake et al). As stated in the report, “although ethanol may increase emissions of aldehydes, it reduces benzene and butadiene – and overall lifecycle emissions and associated cancer risk.” The authors, including Michael Wang of Argonne Lab, estimated the reduction at 40 percent.
- Accurately projecting air quality 14 years into the future would be an amazing feat and would establish a new standard in predictive modeling.
- NO real-world vehicle/fuel testing was done and all conclusions are based on the author’s own model.
- Having all vehicles operating on E85 is a totally unrealistic scenario.
Finally, identifying increased emission of aldehydes from the combustion of alcohol fuels does not constitute new science. The chemistry of alcohol combustion and production of aldehydes such acetaldehyde and formaldehyde have been well analyzed. Dr. Gary Whitten, then a senior scientist with ICF Consulting, addressed the issue of aldehydes and air toxics both produced and reduced by the use of E85 in a 1998 paper written for the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.
National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition
and our partners is that the use of 85 percent ethanol is but one of many forms of alternative fuels which should be used to fuel our transportation sector in the future. The United States should no more be totally dependent on ethanol than we should desire to maintain our nation’s current dependence on petroleum. Ethanol, biodiesel, propane, compressed natural gas, electricity, hydrogen and other yet-to-be defined fuels should and must all be part of the future. The negativity that has resulted from a computer-generated analysis based on unrealistic assumptions is most unfortunate. The NEVC and our partners will continue to advocate the use of clean-renewable E85 and work to dispel myths and address impractical assumptions.
for this press release.
UPDATE: NRDC Statement on New Study of Ethanol (E85) Impact on Air Quality
April 26, 2007 – NRDC believes there should be no rush to judgment on the impacts of ethanol used as high blends (E85, 85% ethanol, and 15% gasoline) on air quality based on a new study by Mark Z. Jacobson of Stanford University.We urge Dr. Jacobson to join with NRDC, air pollution regulators, and scientists to clear the air regarding his statement that concludes that E85, “a high blend of ethanol poses an equal or greater risk to public health than gasoline.” This conclusion is at odds with previous studies and emission data from modern vehicles running on E85, and even appears to be at odds with the conclusion from his own study.
NRDC recommends the following to clarify the results of this paper and the air quality impacts of ethanol used as high blends:
First, NRDC recommends that a team of leading vehicle emission experts review the existing data on emissions from E85. Based on this review, if the panel believes the emission scenarios in Dr. Jacobson’s study are incorrect and/or additional sensitivity runs are necessary, air pollution regulators should re-run the air pollution model to develop a broader scientific consensus of the impacts on air quality.
Second, based on the results from the above work, we urge the CARB, US EPA, automakers and the ethanol industry to commit to additional testing of E85 vehicles if warranted. If such testing results indicate a need, we call upon CARB and US EPA to immediately set tighter emission standards on E85 vehicles to protect public health.
We look forward to working with Dr. Jacobson and vehicle emission experts to clarify and improve the quality of information being provided to policymakers and the public on this important issue of the pollution impacts of E85.
Roland Hwang, Vehicles Policy Director
NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
111 Sutter Street, 20th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94104
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