Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Almost ten years ago, journalist Brendan Horton assessed the state of Green Chemistry for the prestigious journal Nature. It makes interesting reading to compare that article with the current state of the the field. Take a look and send comments if you would like.

“Industry is discovering that ‘green’ approaches to chemical processes are not only beneficial to the environment but can boost profits too. It’s fertile ground for collaboration between academic and industrial scientists.”

Question: what surprises you about where Green Chemistry is today?

Meanwhile, from the New York Times, two articles that discuss the environment in the US and in Costa Rica offer some hope and advice:


U.S. Forgives Costa Rican Debt to Help Environment


The U.S. has agreed to forgive $26 million of debt and the government of Costa Rica has committed to invest a similar amount in conserving high-risk natural areas.

OP-ED COLUMNIST; The Green-Collar Solution


Van Jones has been on a crusade to help disadvantaged communities understand why they would be the biggest beneficiaries of a greener America.


© James K. Bashkin, 2007

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Test your knowledge of climate change, and see what educators have to say about it, at The New York Times. You may have to sign up for a free New York Times membership to see the story. The educators discuss the natural greenhouse effect and how it is essential for our planet to support life; they distinguish the natural effect from the industrial greenhouse effect. Other frequently-confused matters are clarified, such as the relationship between depletion of the ozone layer and global warming (they are not related in a significant way).

Note that one of the answers given mentions that ethanol burns more cleanly than fossil fuels. This is very true in the sense that fossil fuels contain not only hydrocarbons, they have “impurities” that are nitrogen- and sulfur-containing organic compounds. The nitrogen and sulfur end up as well known air pollution components NOx and SOx after combustion.

However, as previously mentioned on this site on Oct. 8th, predictions of air quality in Los Angeles based on a switch to E85 ethanol-based fuel, and studies of air quality from Brazil, where some cars run on pure ethanol, all show increased amounts of highly-toxic acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and ozone and related species in the air. Formaldehyde and similar compounds damage the lungs, causing inflammation and other problems, and cause serious problems for both healthy people and especially people with asthma. Ozone is a major, direct cause of pollution-related respiratory distress. Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative for specimens in biology and medical labs.

If you wish to see the original scientific papers, they are cited here.

As possible explanations for the generation of harmful species from ethanol, I offer the following suggestions:

  • The oxygen in ethanol could, under circumstances of less than ideal combustion, result in formaldehyde and other aldehyde formation.
  • The ready manner in which ethanol absorbs water from the atmosphere interferes with combustion efficiency.

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