Saturday, 12 January 2013

Carbon mitigation could increase ozone

A team from Lancaster University has poured cold water on Europe’s plan to increase the biomass it uses in electricity production, saying that while non-fossil fuels can improve the carbon picture, it comes at the cost of air quality on the ground.
The problem is that many of the forest crops that are favoured for biomass can increase ozone down at ground level. Poplar, willow and eucalyptus trees – all fast-growing and relatively high-yield sources of biomass for conversion into fuel – emit high levels of isoprene while they’re growing. When this mixes with other pollutants in sunlight, isoprene forms ozone. Ozone causes an estimated 22,000 deaths annually in Europe and a European plan to expand tree plantations under a plan to ramp up its biomass use could add another 1,400 deaths to the list. Ozone from the plantations could reduce wheat and maize output since ozone impairs crop growth. Trees could be genetically engineered to reduce isoprene emissions, and plantations should be located away from urban pollution.
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