This news item was created by students Jennifer Reel, Sara Stacy, Ryan Kemper and Leah Meinert as part of their Chemistry 210 Semester Project in WS99 under the guidance of Prof. Rainer Glaser.

Glaser's "Chemistry is in the News"
To Accompany Wade Organic Chemistry 4/e.
Chapter 3. Structure and Stereochemistry of Alkanes.

For each of the following questions, please refer to the following article:

By Martha M. Hamilton and Warren Brown, Washington Post, Thursday February 18, 1999.

Editorial Comments

For those of you who are attempting to be environmentally conscious this article might make you think twice before buying that new Jeep Cherokee, Land Rover, or Lincoln Navigator. Just get on the web and check out the fuel consumption of those on and off road bad boys and you'll find that they are among the thirstiest vehicles on the road. This not only is bad for your pocketbook, but also adds much greater amounts of emissions to the already hazy atmosphere. However, the problem not only lies with the auto industry as oil producers and refiners have not taken the necessary steps to "clean up" their gasoline's which contain unneeded amounts of pollutants.

Consequently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has introduced a proposal for tougher emissions standards on Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV's) and light trucks, both of which were previously exempt from the stricter emission requirements enforced on passenger cars. Moreover, the new policy would hand down greater restrictions on gasoline producers, specifically on the amounts of sulfur contained in the gasoline and the resulting emitted nitrogen oxides.

These tougher restrictions are sure to be beneficial for human health and the health of our environment, but both the auto manufacturers and the oil industry are wavering as to who should bear the economic cost. The American Petroleum Institute claims the costs are just too high as refineries are not equipped to meet the new standards of sulfur content, resulting in higher gasoline costs to the American consumer and the shutdown of some small refineries who could not afford new equipment. The car manufacturers argue that high sulfur gasoline disables the vehicles emission control equipment by clogging catalytic converters and leading to overall increased emissions, including smog forming nitrogen oxides and sulfur emissions leading to acid rain.

Many groups including state and local air quality officials and environmental organizations concerned with air pollution believe this to be the most important move the EPA has made in years and the start of a push to new cleaner technologies for transportation, including non-combustion hydrogen fuel cells that we looked at in news item three. Above all, this is a big step to lessen air pollution and to clean up vehicle emissions, check out the links to this article, learn about these pollutants, and see what you think about how this will help in producing a cleaner tomorrow.

Pertinent Text References
Chapter 3. Structure and Stereochemistry of Alkanes.


Question 1: Sulfur clogs up the honeycombs in catalytic converters and limits their ability to reduce air pollution. Through what process could the petroleum industry reduce the sulfur content within gasoline? What allows this process to reduce the sulfur content?

A. The petroleum industry can reduce sulfur content in gasoline through the process of hydrocracking. This process breaks alkanes into smaller alkanes. The products of hydrocracking are saturated with hydrogen atoms, thus free of sulfur and nitrogen impurities.

Question 2: Limits are being placed on the amount of emissions of nitrogen oxides that can be emitted per mile per vehicle. What are the formulas for three nitrogen oxides and draw their Lewis-Kehule structures?

A. NO, NO2, and ON-NO2.

Question 3: Sport Utility Vehicles are typically known as "gas guzzlers." This high gas consumption by SUV's results in an increase in gas combustion. Imagine you were elected to design a new pollution reduced energy source for vehicles and were to present your ideas to the EPA. What new technologies would you propose?

A. One possibility is the use of nuclear and solar resources as opposed to the burning of fossil fuels. These sources cause much less pollution and do not deplete these natural resources. The EPA would be likely to support these new possibilities.

Question 4: This cleaner burning fuel will also reduce the amount of acid rain. How does sulfur contribute to the production of acid rain? Write the stoichiometric equations for acid rain formation.

A. Sulfur dioxide is emitted through the combustion of gasoline in vehicles. The sulfur dioxide reaches the atmosphere and oxidizes to form a sulfate ion. It then becomes sulfuric acid as it joins with hydrogen atoms in the air and falls to the earth.

S + O2 => SO2
2 SO2 + O2 => SO3
SO3 + H2O => H2SO4

Question 5: If legislation is passed that requires a reduction in pollution, there will be numerous effects on American society. One such effect is an increase in the price of gasoline. How do you think this will effect society? Does the welfare of the environment outweigh the effects on society? (Open-ended question)