In the 1980s, the U.S. acted to remove lead additives from gasoline amid overwhelming evidence of serious health consequences from lead-generated vehicle emissions. Unfortunately, that lead was replaced with petroleum-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds that carry their own set of serious health consequences. They are both carcinogenic and cause damaging gene mutations among other toxic effects. Both lead and the aromatics were added to gasoline to boost octane because engines won’t run on gasoline without some sort of octane enhancement. Fortunately, ethanol provides a much cleaner and cheaper octane boost. This factor alone makes a compelling case for ethanol-blended fuels.
According to the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, biofuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 34 percent in comparison to gasoline. Moreover, advanced biofuels have the potential to nearly eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. In 2013, the 13.2 billion gallons of biofuel blended into gasoline in the United States helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions from on-road vehicles by approximately 38 million metric tons, which is the equivalent of removing roughly 8 million automobiles from the road.
Biofuels reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce tailpipe emissions of other potentially dangerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, exhaust hydrocarbons, toxic fumes like benzene and fine particulate matter.