Biomass bummer: carbon mitigation could increase ozone
Trees make isoprene makes ozone
A team from Lancaster University has poured cold water on Europe’s increasing plan to increase the biomass it uses in electricity production, saying that that while non-fossil fuels can improve the carbon picture, it comes at the cost of air quality on the ground.
The problem, according to research led by professor Nick Hewitt, is that many of the forest crops that are favoured for biomass can increase ozone down at ground level.
In a study to be published Nature Climate Change, Hewitt’s team found that 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.
Hewitt told Reuters that when it mixes with other pollutants in sunlight, isoprene forms ozone.
Ozone causes an estimated 22,000 deaths annually in Europe, the Reuters piece notes, and Hewitt believes 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.
He also fears that ozone from the plantations could reduce wheat and maize output “by $US1.5 billion since ozone impairs crop growth”.
He suggests that trees could be genetically engineered to reduce isoprene emissions, and states that plantations should be located away from urban pollution. ®
I was writing a snide post about how nuclear energy doesn't have this issue, but you know what, fuck it... If we as a civilization cannot take advantage of scientific advances of the past century purely due to political or ideological reasons, then we are doomed. And rightly so.
Re: So too much ozone is bad....
Solution - grow the eucalyptus trees in the stratosphere
Re: Use Australia as a test-bed
"So, maybe we should study how many Aussies are getting cancer from isoprene (and generally dying from assorted ozone-ness complications), compared with, say, peoples everywhere else where there are fewer gum trees?"
For such a trial you would need to eliminate anything else from the environment that is likely to kill the test subjects.
That groups appears to include all the Australian flora and fauna, apart from "some of the sheep".