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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Baseline measurements of ethene in 2002: Implications for increased ethanol use and biomass burning on air quality and ecosystems

  • Author(s): Gaffney, JS
  • Marley, NA
  • Blake, DR
  • et al.

While it is well known that combustion of ethanol as a biofuel will lead to enhanced emissions of methane, ethene (ethylene), acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and oxides of nitrogen (primarily NO) when compared to gasoline alone, especially during cold starts or if catalytic converters are not operating properly, the impacts of increases in atmospheric ethene levels from combustion of fuels with higher ethanol content has not received much attention. Ethene is a well known and potent plant growth hormone and exposure to agricultural crops and natural vegetation results in yield reductions especially when combined with higher levels of PAN and ozone also expected from the increased use of ethanol/gasoline blends. We report here some baseline measurements of ethene obtained in 2002 in the southwestern and south central United States. These data indicate that current ethene background levels are less than 1 ppb. Anticipated increases in fuel ethanol content of E30 or greater is expected to lead to higher atmospheric levels of ethene on regional scales due to its atmospheric lifetime of 1.5-3 days. These background measurements are discussed in light of the potential enhancement of ethene levels expected from the anticipated increases in ethanol use as a renewable biofuel. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

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