In the US, for political reasons, we’re being conned by corn. It turns out that fuels high in ethanol may pose an equal, or even greater, risk to our health than regular gas.

In, Charles Q. Choi quotes atmospheric scientist Mark Jacobson as saying that his research shows that the number of deaths and hospitalizations linked with respiratory ailments may increase if every car in the US ran on ethanol. Choi writes, “Ethanol is made from corn and other plants, which naturally soak up carbon dioxide. Research suggests that ethanol production and consumption might therefore release less of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than gasoline use does.” However, fuel made from corn reduces greenhouse gases LESS than fuels made from other plants that are grown specifically for this purpose, despite the fact that, as Jacobson says, ”Ethanol [made from corn] is being promoted as a clean and renewable fuel that will reduce global warming and air pollution.”

Jacobson used a computer model to predict the effect of ethanol in Los Angeles, which has successfully fought air pollution caused by car exhaust for years. He looked at two possible scenarios: one in which all cars used regular gas and another in which they used E85, a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gas. Choi quotes him as saying, ”We found that E85 vehicles reduce atmospheric levels of two carcinogens, benzene and butadiene, but increase two others, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. As a result, cancer rates for E85 are likely to be similar to those for gasoline. However, in some parts of the country, E85 significantly increased ozone, a prime ingredient of smog.”

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