Mobile sources are among the largest contributors of four hazardous air pollutants—benzene, 1,3-butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde—in urban areas. At the same time, federal and state governments are promoting the use of alternative fuel vehicles as a means to curb local air pollution. As yet, the impact of this movement toward alternative fuels with respect to toxic emissions has not been well studied. The purpose of this paper is to compare toxic emissions from vehicles operating on a variety of fuels, including reformulated gasoline (RFG), natural gas, ethanol, methanol, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), and electricity. This study uses a version of Argonne National Laboratory’s Greenhouse Gas, Regulated Emissions, and Energy Use in Transportation (GREET) model, appropriately modified to estimate toxic emissions. The GREET model conducts a total fuel-cycle analysis that calculates emissions from both downstream (e.g., operation of the vehicle) and upstream (e.g., fuel production and distribution) stages of the fuel cycle. We find that almost all of the fuels studied reduce 1,3-butadiene emissions compared with conventional gasoline (CG). However, the use of ethanol in E85 (fuel made with 85% ethanol) or RFG leads to increased acetaldehyde emissions, and the use of methanol, ethanol, and compressed natural gas (CNG) may result in increased formaldehyde emissions. When the modeling results for the four air toxics are considered together with their cancer risk factors, all the fuels and vehicle technologies show air toxic emission reduction benefits.

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Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


RIT – Main Campus