Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States (6 page pdf, Christopher W. Tessum, Jason D. Hill, and Julian D. Marshall, Proceedings f the Ntional Academy of the United States of America (PNAS), Dec. 15, 2014)
Also discussed here: Switching to vehicles powered by electricity from renewables could save lives (ScienceDaily, Dec. 15, 2014)
Today we review a paper that compares the amount of pollution (as PM2.5 and ozone) produced in generating power for electric powered vehicles compared with the use of conventional gasoline. Results indicate that the use of biofuels (such as ethanol from corn) increases health impacts from pollution by 80% while using renewable sources such as natural gas, wind, water or solar reduces the impact by 50% (noting that natural gas is a pollutant in terms of climate change). This study underlines the lack of benefits from biofuels in terms of pollution and health.
“Air pollution is the largest environmental health hazard in the U.S., in total killing more than 100,000 people per year. Air pollution increases rates of heart attack, stroke, and respiratory disease.”
“Our assessment of the life cycle air quality impacts on human health of 10 alternatives to conventional gasoline vehicles finds that electric vehicles (EVs) powered by electricity from natural gas or wind, water, or solar power are best for improving air quality, whereas vehicles powered by corn ethanol and EVs powered by coal are the worst.”
“powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline. Conversely, EVs powered by low-emitting electricity from natural gas, wind, water, or solar power reduce environmental health impacts by 50% or more”
“Their analysis included not only the pollution from vehicles, but also emissions generated during production of the fuels or electricity that power them. With ethanol, for example, air pollution is released from tractors on farms, from soils after fertilizers are applied, and to supply the energy for fermenting and distilling corn into ethanol.”
"Our work highlights the importance of looking at the full life cycle of energy production and use, not just at what comes out of tailpipes,"