May is the month when a lot of subjects seek our attention: Air Quality Awareness, Asthma Awareness, Allergy Awareness and Climate Change. Believe it or not, all four of these topics are related. Let’s start with the last one: climate change. The heat and droughts associated with climate change create conditions advantageous to wildfires, which brings us back to air quality. For an example of what we are talking about, look no further than our neighbors in North Dakota. For the first 17 years of the American Lung Association’s State of the Air Report, North Dakota received good grades for its air quality. However, for the past three years, wildfire smoke has made the air less than healthy. Of the 10 North Dakota counties with air quality monitors, half earned “F” grades in the most recent report.
The same warming temperatures that trigger wildfires also makes the pollen and allergy season start earlier and last longer. We now know that higher rates of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “supercharge” some plants pollen output. This is bad news for many people with asthma, because pollen and other allergens can also trigger asthma episodes.
As you can see, the topics all have a common thread, and a common solution. Using ethanol blends instead of gasoline help to reduce tailpipe emissions linked to ozone, another risk to people with asthma. It also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because the crops we use to make ethanol soak up and store carbon as they grow. Petroleum fuels can’t do that.
Think about that the next time you fill your tank. You may be part of the solution.