Ethanol is promoted as a sustainable, clean-burning and eco-friendly fuel that will reduce pollution and global warming. A study from Stanford University suggests that large-scale moves away from gasoline to ‘alternative’ fuels containing a high proportion of ethanol would lead to an increase in numbers of respiratory-related deaths and hospitalizations.
A series of computer model runs simulated atmospheric conditions throughout the US in 2020, with a special focus on Los Angeles, historically the country’s most polluted ‘airshed’. The models compared the pollutive effect of a vehicle fleet (i.e. all cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc., in the US) fueled by gasoline with that of a fleet powered by E85 (a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline).
E85 vehicles reduce atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increase two others, acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. Consequently, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be roughly similar to those for gasoline.
However, E85 significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog and a factor in decreased lung capacity, inflamed lung tissue, aggravated asthmatic conditions and impaired immune systems. The WHO estimates that 800,000 people die each year worldwide from ozone and other chemicals in smog.
E85 increased ozone-related mortalities in the US by about 200 deaths per year compared to gasoline, with about 120 of those deaths occurring in Los Angeles. This represents increases of 4% nationally, 9% in Los Angeles, above projected ozone-related death rates for gasoline-fueled vehicles in 2020.
We’re all doomed. If they can’t get you one way, they’ll get you another. However, these findings are probably unlikely to influence would-be suicides’ choice of termination scenario.