Air pollution impacts of biofuels

Kristina Wagstrom, Jason Hill

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Scopus citations


This chapter reviews the impacts of increased liquid transportation biofuel production and use on air pollutant emissions and their ambient concentrations, with a focus on developing nations. Major pollutants covered include those affecting climate change (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane) and those affecting human health (carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and volatile organic compounds). Emissions and resulting ambient concentrations associated with all the stages of the full life cycle of biofuel production and use are described and, where possible, are compared against conventional fuels. Keywords: Atmospheric pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle assessment. Introduction. Petroleum is the most commonly used feedstock for producing transportation fuels because it is both convenient and energy dense. Through the year, petroleum has fueled global economic growth, yet it comes at the price of global conflict, exploitation of indigenous peoples, and destruction of both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. In addition, the extraction, refining, and combustion of petroleum is responsible for the emission of many air pollutants that contribute to anthropogenic climate change, harm human health, and damage ecosystems worldwide (Uherek et al., 2010). Recently, interest has flourished in the use of biofuels as a petroleum replacement (see Chapter 1). Domestically produced biofuels have the potential to support rural communities, slow the depletion of fossil fuel resources, and avoid many of the negative environmental consequences associated with petroleum such as oil spills (Lovett et al., 2011). Similarly, biofuels may reduce greenhouse gas emissions and yield improvements to air quality if the emissions from a biofuelacs production and use are lower than those associated with meeting the same energy need with conventional fuels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocioeconomic and Environmental Impacts of Biofuels
Subtitle of host publicationEvidence from Developing Nations
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780511920899
ISBN (Print)9781107009356
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


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