Volatility vs Carbon Monoxide
Some ethanol opponents seize upon the fact that when ethanol is blended with gasoline, it slightly raises the volatility of the fuel. Increased volatility can lead to increased evaporation of smog-forming emissions. But as is often the case, this is only half the story.
Blending ethanol in gasoline dramatically reduces carbon monoxide tailpipe emissions. According to the National Research Council, carbon monoxide emissions are responsible for as much as 20% of smog formation. Additionally, ethanol-blended fuels reduce tailpipe emissions of volatile organic compounds, which readily form ozone in the atmosphere. Thus, the use of ethanol plays an important role in smog reduction.
Importantly, in RFG areas where smog is of most concern, gasoline blended with ethanol must meet the same evaporative emission standard as gasoline without ethanol. These ethanol blends have the added benefit of providing reduced tailpipe carbon monoxide emissions and, therefore, further emissions reductions of smog (source: Renewable Fuels Association).
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