Not Thinking Things Through

Posted on March 16, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

Does danger lurk inside the green revolution? Do certain mandates actually worsen the state of the economy and the environment?
I often wonder if our governments will ever get it. Our country is on the verge of endangering its economic future as our leaders plunge ahead with legislation that would potentially diminish America’s stature and strength. As the climate change debate wages on, knee-jerk strategies could yield a series of detrimental results for our economy and ways of living.
As the government and certain business allies attempt to push greener regulations, it would be prudent for operators to pay attention to some of the facts on this issue and weigh the potential consequences that may emerge. Several mandates passed into law have had to be retracted because of the dangers to the public.
For example, you may remember the MTBE (oxygenated fuel) scandal that was forced upon energy producers in several states. It was discovered that mandated use of MTBEs was fouling our groundwater and making it non-potable (undrinkable). So its production was reduced substantially without much ado.
Like the MTBE debacle, the new, greener CFL bulbs have been shown to contain amounts of lead and mercury that are at dangerous levels for humans. In just a few short years, these chemicals may contaminate and devastate our ground water as well, not to mention what could happen if someone accidentally breaks one of these bulbs.
So you would think that before the government mandates a replacement fuel mixture, they would ensure that it didn’t have any harmful effects on the public and the environment. Several studies show such precautions are not being taken.
In another example, most states are expanding the use of ethanol fuels such as E85. This fuel is a mixture of gasoline and about 85% ethanol. Since ethanol is a bio-fuel primarily made from corn, you would assume that it is a safe alternative to MTBE.
But recent studies have raised some serious questions and show that potential damage to the environment is not being considered. Although ethanol emits about 50% fewer greenhouse gases, vast sections of woodlands and forests are being cleared to make way for larger crops. The trees being removed would have actually locked up more carbon than the crops being produced. The agricultural machinery used to plant and harvest crops leaves a huge carbon footprint. Not only is agricultural machinery used to sow and reap the crops, but it is also used to spread chemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides needed for mass production.
A considerable amount of energy is required to transport and process bio-fuels, which is less efficient than the process of converting crude oil into gasoline or diesel fuel. Moreover, the additional water needed to produce these crops can deplete and pollute groundwater.
But the real issue that I want you to focus on is the fact that E85 increases the emission of acetaldehyde, a toxic pollutant. This pollutant has physical effects on certain people  that cannot be overlooked. Maybe our government should have looked more closely at this chemical before it showed up at more than 1,200 service stations with 2,400 more on the way. Acetaldehyde is a significant component of tobacco. It has been demonstrated to have an enhanced effect with nicotine, which increases an adolescent’s probability of addiction to cigarette smoking. People who have a genetic insufficiency of processing the chemical acetaldehyde into acetic acid could be at a much greater risk of contracting Alzheimer's disease and under certain circumstances organ disease.
Acetaldehyde may be carcinogenic to humans as well. The International Agency for Research on Cancer states, “There is sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of acetaldehyde in experimental animals." Other concerns are that acetaldehyde damages the human DNA and can result in abnormal muscle development as it binds to proteins.   The chemical results from combustion activity, such as cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust.
If you factor in the effects of bio-fuels on the food supply for world populations, it should make you pause. While our governments consider more stringent emissions guidelines for the private sector, including the chauffeured transportation industry, businesspeople overall must factor in the additional costs, inconveniences, and threats to public health and welfare that come with compliance.

— Jae Morey is vice president of business development with He writes two separate blogs that focus on the limousine industry. “LIMO-U” is a blog that is educational in nature and covers numerous topics about how to use limousine services for various events and other industry related topics. His blog “The Limo Lane” is about all things limousine with topics that are of interest to limousine operators and industry customers.

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