Ethanol-blended petroleum fuels: implications of co-solvency for phytotechnologies
In recent decades, there has been increasing interest in the use of ethanol-blended fuels as alternatives to unblended fossil fuels. These initiatives are targeted at combating CO2 and particulate matter emissions, as these oxygenates leave behind a lesser carbon footprint. Noble as it may appear, this innovation is not without attendant ugly consequences. One major implication is the effect of co-solvency on the applicability of various forms of phytotechnologies for contaminant removal. By means of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, this research investigated the effect of diesel fuel ethanol addition on the leaching potentials of petroleum hydrocarbons. Since phytoremediation of hydrocarbons depends largely on rhizodegradation of contaminants by the root-associated microbiome, the leaching of petroleum hydrocarbons beyond the rooting zones of plants may limit the effectiveness of this process as a reclamation strategy for ethanol-blended fuel spills. The analyses presented in this paper highlight the need for energy scientists to carefully consider the environmental impacts of ethanol-blended innovations holistically.