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January 2010 - March 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Science and Engineering
Department of Civil Engineering

PI: Julian D. Marshall

Air Pollution Impacts of Conventional and Alternative Fuels

The production and use of biofuels or fossil fuels releases differing amounts of air pollutants in different geographic locations at different times with associated ecological and human health effects that impose costs on society. Emissions include greenhouse gases (GHG), which contribute to global climate change, and pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and ozone, which impact human health. For GHG, these costs depend on total amounts released while costs associated with emissions of PM and ozone-precursors depend on the amount, location, and time of release. Current life cycle assessment (LCA) is useful for determining total quantities of pollutants from producing and using fuels, but indicates little about when and where these pollutants are released. Thus, estimation of the air pollution from biofuels versus conventional fuels requires an advanced LCA that accounts for these variations in emissions and impacts. These researchers are performing a spatially- and temporally-explicit LCA for several biofuels and gasoline. They are evaluating GHG emissions and the health effects and environmental justice impacts of ozone and PM for each fuel. Their results will provide new knowledge about the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs in GHG emissions and air quality that occur by switching from conventional fuels to biofuels. The researchers rely on MSI resources to run state-of-the-science meteorological, emissions, and air-quality models with very high computational requirements. These resources allow them to move beyond the current approaches being used to address these questions and apply a more comprehensive approach.

Group Members

Matthew Bechle, Undergraduate Student
Nicholas Boeke, Graduate Student
Adam F. Both, Graduate Student
Cassidy B. Buckley, Graduate Student
Fred S. DeBruzzi, Undergraduate Student
Steve Hankey, Graduate Student
Kathryn Lundquist, Graduate Student
Christopher M. Tessum, Graduate Student
Kristina Wagstrom, Research Associate