Ethanol use has been lauded as a way to provide a secure, diverse, environmentally friendly and economically beneficial energy supply for the US. However, along with this praise has been criticism due to potential unintended consequences that may arise from ethanol production and use. This thesis addresses one such unintended consequence: the displacement of emissions from downstream vehicle operation locations to upstream farming and production areas. The thesis uses the Upstream Ethanol Production (UEP) Model, a geospatial lifecycle model developed for analyzing spatial emissions inventories for ethanol production. The UEP model is based on the US GREET model – the gold standard for total fuel cycle analysis models in the U.S. The UEP allows for key pollutants including CO2, N2O, CH4, CO, VOCs, SOx, NOx and PM to be quantified at various locations throughout the ethanol production pathway Several case studies involving ethanol fuel use in New York State are used to demonstrate the model and explore the upstream versus downstream air emissions associated with the ethanol production pathway. The results indicate the importance of transportation and distribution pathways, as well as feedstock production assumptions, on the overall geospatial impacts of air pollution. Displaced emissions from downstream vehicle operation locations in urban areas to upstream feedstock and ethanol fuel production locations in rural areas are also shown by the results. The results indicate that the use of ethanol at urban areas such as those in New York State to reduce greenhouse gases come at the expense of the rural area air quality. Based on the results, it appears that potential geopolitical conflicts caused by displacement of emissions could influence future energy, environmental, agricultural and economic policymaking at the federal and state levels.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Ethanol as fuel--Environmental aspects; Ethanol fuel industry--Environmental aspects; Air pollution
Department, Program, or Center
Department of Science Technology and Society/Public Policy (CLA)
Malone, Amanda Louise, "Unintended consequences of ethanol production: Geospatial lifecycle analysis" (2009). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
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