Air pollution results from sugarcane ethanol production

Dec 16, 2011 By James Leonard

(PhysOrg.com) -- The burning of sugarcane fields prior to harvest for ethanol production can create air pollution that detracts from the biofuel's overall sustainability, according to research published recently by a team of researchers led by scientists at the University of California, Merced.

UC Merced graduate student Chi-Chung Tsao was the lead author on the paper and was aided in the study by UC Merced professors Elliott Campbell and Yihsu Chen. The study — published online this week in the Nature Climate Change journal — focused on Brazil, the world's top producer of ethanol and a possible source for U.S. imports of the alternative fuel.

"There is a big strategic decision our country and others are making, in whether to develop a domestic biofuels industry or import relatively inexpensive biofuels from developing countries," Campbell said. "Our study shows that importing biofuels could result in human health and environmental problems in the regions where they are cultivated." Download a PDF of the study.

Ethanol is seen as an alternative to fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gasses when used and are a major contributor to air pollution and climate change. But despite some governments encouraging farmers to reduce field burning — which is done in part to protect farmworkers by removing sharp leaves and harmful animals — more than half of sugarcane croplands in Brazil continue to be burned.

That leads to a reduction in air quality that can offset the benefits of ethanol over petroleum fuels that emit more greenhouse gases during their use, something Campbell said the U.S. should consider when determining whether to import inexpensive from Brazil or continuing to invest in domestic corn .

"Unlike petroleum production, the potential to produce biofuels is relatively evenly distributed across many countries, and this is a big plus from an energy security perspective," Campbell said. "However, agriculture practices in some regions result in biofuels that lead to even more intense air pollution than petroleum."

Satellites are currently used to measure in Brazil, but the study shows actual pollution caused by sugarcane field burning could be four times greater than satellite estimates. The researchers believe this is due to the relatively small scale of individual fires.

Explore further: Earth's resource budget for 2014 already spent, NGO says

Provided by University of California

5 /5 (3 votes)

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User comments : 12

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Husky
1 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2011
I would think that they could dry and burn the stalks in a vessel to at least provide energy for the processing and conversion of the cane, this would offset the carbon emissions from fossile fuel otherwise used, it would have to be implemented on large scale to make it economical. I've seen a documentary about a danish sugarbeet factory that mostly powers itself from the beet leftovers.
omatumr
1 / 5 (8) Dec 16, 2011
The global economy and the global warming story both seem to be collapsing today [1], despite last ditch efforts to stop the release of Climategate emails [2].

1. http://dl.dropbox...asks.pdf

2. http://joannenova...idation/
NotParker
1.8 / 5 (17) Dec 16, 2011
Well DUH. ALL green "solutions" are lies.

Wind turbines are bird and bat slaughterers.
Solar Panel are filthy to make and "rot" becoming less efficient every day.
Biofuels produce more CO2.
kaasinees
2.5 / 5 (8) Dec 16, 2011
Well DUH. ALL green "solutions" are lies.

Wind turbines are bird and bat slaughterers.
Solar Panel are filthy to make and "rot" becoming less efficient every day.
Biofuels produce more CO2.

And how is this a "green" solution? And whoever called it as such?
rawa1
1.3 / 5 (7) Dec 16, 2011
And how is this a "green" solution? And whoever called it as such?
Cold fusion. Most of biofuels are literally tragedy for the life environment.
Nanobanano
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 16, 2011
Well DUH. ALL green "solutions" are lies.

Wind turbines are bird and bat slaughterers.


yah think yer being a tad extremist?

Solar Panel are filthy to make and "rot" becoming less efficient every day.


So, they pay for themselves several times over in their lifetimes with respect to Coal or other fossil fuels.

Biofuels produce more CO2.


True.

I had thought of a way to capture solar energy in a closed water cycle, like a nuclear reactor, by using a combination of vaccuum tube technology and turbines.

To avoid losing the water, which could be taxing on local ecology, what I did is envisage piping the steam to an elevated holding tank.

Since the steam isn't free to escape, it will be less efficient than ordinary boilers, however, the water will condense in the elevated holding tank.

From there, it is allowed to pass through another turbine as it would in a hydro plant, falling back down into the vaccuum tubes of the solar heater.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (6) Dec 16, 2011
Anyway, I figured a way to do "free" solar heating and cooling for a home.

It's so simple it's pathetic.

In winter, just use black curtains.

sunlight comes through the windows and is absorbed almost 100% of the visible spectra, and then infrared can't leave the windows.

I never see anyone doing this, but essentially, it's a forced air heater without the lawn ornament or the roof ornament, and costs about 1/20th the price.

Your window is maybe 3ft by 5ft, and typically has white blinds or white curtains in it. Black would basicly make a 1000 Watts difference PER WINDOW in net gain of heat, which is similar to one of those electric floor heaters!!

In summer, use white curtains.

unknownorgin
2 / 5 (4) Dec 16, 2011
This article and paper fails to take into account any real science. It is well known that any plant is composed primarly of water and CO2 that it absorbed from the atmosphere so by what possible leap of reasonable thinking could burning sugar cane or any other plant add more CO2 to the atmosphere than was there when the plant started to grow?
MarkyMark
5 / 5 (3) Dec 17, 2011
Well DUH. ALL green "solutions" are lies.

Wind turbines are bird and bat slaughterers.
Solar Panel are filthy to make and "rot" becoming less efficient every day.
Biofuels produce more CO2.

So you know wind turbines dont kill bats as bats can easilly see them.
kaasinees
3 / 5 (4) Dec 17, 2011
Well DUH. ALL green "solutions" are lies.

Wind turbines are bird and bat slaughterers.
Solar Panel are filthy to make and "rot" becoming less efficient every day.
Biofuels produce more CO2.

So you know wind turbines dont kill bats as bats can easilly see them.


And birds can also see them with a simple paint job by creating patterns on the blades.
NotParker
1 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2011
"Shockingly high numbers of bird and bat deaths caused by one of Canadas biggest wind farms should serve as a warning to planners of other projects that may be built in crucial wildlife zones, one of the countrys key conservation groups says.

The 86 huge turbines on Wolfe Island, just outside Kingston, Ont., began to produce power about a year ago, and an on-going count of bird and bats that have been killed by the blades has been conducted since then.

A consultants report covering the period between July and December of 2009 was released recently, indicating that 602 birds and 1,270 bats were killed by the turbines over that stretch. "

http://www.theglo...1598597/
NotParker
1 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2011
Solar Panels never last long enough to pay for themselves.