A Rebuttal To The Recent Stanford Study On Ethanol
The following rebuttal comes from the author of “Alcohol Can Be A Gas“, David Blume. He is a permaculturist, farmer, ecologist and alcohol fuels expert who has appeared on Thom Hartmann’s radio show multiple times.
Blume clearly makes his point that the latest study from Stanford regarding Ethanol being bad for the environment is a false conclusion and a clear attempt to smear Ethanol as a viable alternative to oil.
On The Recent Stanford Ozone Study
Recent reports of a study out of Stanford University made big national headlines damning alcohol fuel. The study claimed that if high blends of alcohol, for instance E-85, were adopted by 100% of U.S. cars by 2020, deaths related to ozone and formaldehyde emissions from cars would increase by 200 people per year. The way the press reported the article, you would think that this was a major condemnation of alcohol.
NO TESTING OF ANY KIND WAS DONE TO DETERMINE THE AMOUNT OF OZONE EMISSIONS FROM E-85. This was entirely a study based on computer modeling done by one guy, and his methodology is not standard, nor adopted by anyone else. Trying to model atmospheric emissions of 100% of the auto fleet 13 years in the future is like trying to tell you what the weather will be like in 13 years. It far exceeds the state-of-the-art of atmospheric modeling.
Even so, the increase he models is very, very, very small. He doesn’t state what the measurement error is—and so it is probable that his result is so small as to be indistinguishable from measurement error. The USEPA is looking into the study, and the unconfirmed report at this time is that there are basic flaws in the modeling (read: the math) that, if confirmed, would fully undermine and possibly even reverse the conclusions. Fat chance of that making headlines, though. I’ll keep you posted on this.
The big three emissions of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrous oxides are all dramatically reduced in E-85 and pretty much fully disappear in E-100, which is just as likely a 2020 scenario as E-85.
Although E-85 aldehyde emissions may have a higher percentage of automobile hydrocarbons in some cases, these are considered far less dangerous than the highly carcinogenic, benzene and butadiene emissions from gasoline in both potency (health danger) and reactivity (ozone formation and indirect health effects), as verified by California Air Resources Board and the EPA. E-85 dramatically reduces the emissions of these chemicals.
Even if the Stanford ozone calculation turns out to be a correct conclusion, the massive reduction in the other toxic emissions will save thousands of times the lives in both respiratory and cancer deaths. E-85 is estimated by USEPA and CARB (in Winebrake, et al., 2001) to reduce overall cancer risk over gasoline alone by 40%! These are truly big numbers. With E-100, the risks nearly evaporate.
The American Lung Association fully supports E-85 as a way to reduce the health problems of auto emissions, and I think that says it all.
On top of all this its important to note that the researcher, Mark Jacobsen has been a frequent recipient of funding from ExxonMobil through that corporation’s $100 million dollar grant to Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Program. This program is controlled by ExxonMobil and not the University and ExxonMobil retains control of any patentable discoveries that are made by the program.
“It’s difficult to accept a controversial study throwing cold water on the accepted idea that blended ethanol is a good solution to our energy problems when the university well that produced the study has been poisoned by Big Oil’s money,” said John M. Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.