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Environmentalists Issue Warnings About Effects of the Combustion Engine

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On: Sat, Apr 24, 2010 at 11:27AM | By: Sherry Christiansen


Environmentalists Issue Warnings About Effects of the Combustion Engine

Environmentalists have been pushing for some time for a shift to using alternative energy for automobiles in order to decrease emissions of toxic chemicals that are the end result of the process of burning fuel in combustion engines. Many people may not realize that for every gallon of fuel that is burned in an automobile, 14 pounds of carbon dioxide (C02) is emitted into the atmosphere. Over a distance of 12,000 miles (the distance an average American will drive in a year), a 25 mpg car will produce 3.4 tons of carbon dioxide, which is one of the biggest contributors to global warming.

One reason for the recent push for hybrid/green technology is that the single greatest polluter in cities across the globe is, by far, the automobile, as emissions from a billion vehicles on the road add up to a world-wide problem. The negative effects of automotive emissions are at their highest level when you sit in traffic, surrounded by cars, with your engine idling.
Gasoline and diesel fuels are mixtures of hydrocarbons (made of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon atoms). Hydrocarbons are burned during the combustion process by combining with oxygen. Nitrogen and sulfur atoms are also present and combine with 02. Combustion engines emit several types of pollutants.


Hydrocarbons react in the presence of nitrogen oxides and sunlight to form ozone, a major component of smog. Ozone irritates the eyes, nose, and throat, and damages the lungs. A number of exhaust hydrocarbons are toxic; some even have the potential to cause cancer. Nitrogen oxide makes up about 7.2% of gases causing global warming, and vehicles with catalytic converters have produced 50% of that total amount. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that results from incomplete burning of hydrocarbon-based fuel, such as gasoline. CO emissions result when the O2 level, required for the combustion process, is low. Most CO is produced when air-to-fuel ratios are too low in the engine, such as during vehicle starting, when a car doesn’t have a proper tune-up, or at higher altitudes, where thin air reduces the amount of oxygen available for combustion.


Two-thirds of the carbon monoxide emissions come from the automobile. In urban areas, the passenger vehicle contribution to carbon monoxide pollution can exceed 90%.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) originally viewed carbon dioxide (C02) as a product of "perfect" combustion, but has changed its view on CO2 as “a greenhouse gas that traps the earth's heat and contributes to global warming.”




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