Pollution from automobiles is certainly one of the largest sources of outdoor air pollution in the United States. Combating air pollution from these sources would go a long way towards stopping asthma and other kinds of respiratory illnesses and other diseases associated with automobile emissions.
The EPA has required oil companies to introduce substances that would make gasoline burn cleaner. These are called 'oxygenates'. One of these oxygenates, MTBE, has been a dismal failure, resulting in litigation throughout the United States and the destruction of several underground water supplies.
Presently, some supporters of an alternative to MTBE, called Ethanol, are claiming that Ethanol will be the next additive that will make our air clean.
Ethanol is made from corn and is designed to make gasoline burn cleaner. As you may recall, MTBE was supposed to be the big solution that would clean our air. However, it was a disaster and many critics suggest that Ethanol will be another disaster.
Ethanol has recently become the focus of much attention because Congress and the Administration are attempting to resolve several energy issues in this country. Supporters of Ethanol suggest that this additive might very well be the solution to many of our problems.
However, critics suggest that although it might not contaminate ground water supply, it produces smog and sulfur when blended with gasoline. The Sierra Club says that while it is possible that Ethanol might reduce carbon monoxide in the winter, it might increase smog when it is used other times during the year.
According to the United States Energy Information Administration, Ethanol evaporates more quickly in certain circumstances, which results in higher emissions of smog forming compounds. Specifically, Ethanol yields Nitrogen Oxide, which causes smog.
A dozen states have thus far attempted to ban MTBE because it has become such a problem. Whilst Ethanol has not been used too often thus far, people are now looking at it as an alternative to MTBE. But, we should proceed cautiously. There was a rush to use MTBE several years ago and nobody bothered to study what affect it would have on the environment. The government must be certain to make sure that before Ethanol becomes the next approved additive to gasoline, that it be studied very carefully so that we don't have another disaster on our hands.
Many urge that the best way to reduce automobile emissions is to reduce the use of cars and to make automobiles burn more efficiently. Better and more efficient automobile engines are needed, including ( Automobile Hybrids and Air Pollution Problems ) hybrid systems, which are very effective at reducing emissions.
Pennsylvania's Lehigh Northampton Transit Authority has really gone the extra mile. This company provides bus services in the Allentown, Pennsylvania area. Recently, the Authority announced that it would provide free bus service to encourage people to keep their cars off the road on dirty, "smog alert" days. This is one of several cities throughout the United States attempting such a program.
This program appears to really work. The Authority has reported that ridership has increased substantially during the days in which it has invoked this free fair policy.
Money used to subsidize this program came from a $150,000 fine against a cement company for air quality violations. Delaware also has similar programs. New Jersey Transit and Sacramento, California have attempted modified versions of this program.
It seems to me that the Lehigh Northampton Transportation Authority has the right idea about reducing automobile exhaust emissions. The idea is to encourage mass transportation. That, coupled with the development of more energy efficient engines such as those now found in Hondas and Toyotas is the best way to address these problems. Additives such as MTBE and Ethanol, might very well be more of a problem than a cure.