To meet requirements for improved efficiency and reduced emissions, a large number of new vehicle fuels and technologies are being developed. Although there is opportunity for major progress, HEI is interested in identifying any potential unintended health consequences from such developments. HEI’s Communication 16, The Future of Vehicle Fuels and Technologies: Anticipating Health Benefits and Challenges, published by the Scientific Committee on Emerging Technologies (SCET) in 2011, provides a comprehensive perspective on these issues.
The US Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandates the use of increasing amounts of renewable fuels in the coming years. Most gasoline sold in the United States today is a 10% ethanol blend, and biodiesel is often blended with diesel fuel in many parts of the country. There is also increasing attention being paid to the increased use of “low-carbon” fuels. HEI is interested in understanding whether the emissions from the use of such fuels may have any health effects, especially in terms of their public health impact, given their widespread use. Working with its scientific committees, HEI stays abreast of new results and developments and organizes programs and reviews as needed.
The level of aromatic compounds in gasoline appears to proportionally increase the emission of particulate matter. However, the amounts of such emissions are affected in a complex fashion by various fuel characteristics and the level of ethanol blending. In view of the potential importance of these issues, HEI held a research workshop on this issue in December 2016. The goals of this workshop were to (1) present and summarize the current state of knowledge on all aspects of aromatics in gasoline — including ethanol blends — and particulate matter formation (both primary and secondary) and (2) identify questions and approaches that will provide answers to unresolved questions. Following the workshop, HEI published an Executive Summary that includes an overview of regulatory and technology issues, results of laboratory tests for emissions from gasoline engines fueled with different ethanol blends, links between tailpipe emissions and real-world measurements, and future challenges. The workshop program, presentations, and summary are available here.
In the past, HEI has conducted research and comprehensive reviews of fuels and additives, for example on MTBE and other oxygenates, methanol, and cerium, as well as EMF. Please browse our Publications for more information.
Additionally, HEI is considering the impact of unconventional oil and gas development and related issues. Recently, a Strategic Research Agenda was developed; it recommends research to better understand, and to prevent or minimize, potential impacts on human health and well-being, communities, ecological health, and the environment.