Monthly Archives: April 2007

Bad ethanol

Shifting from gasoline to E85 (85% ethanol fuel, 15% gasoline) may be bad both for your health and air quality.
In the article Effects of Ethanol (E85) versus Gasoline Vehicles on Cancer and Mortality in the United States just published on the Journal Environmental Science and Technology Mark Jacobson reports discusses the potential cancer risk and ozone-related health consequences of a large-scale conversion from gasoline to ethanol.
He finds that

E85 (85% ethanol fuel, 15% gasoline) may increase ozone-related mortality, hospitalization, and asthma by about 9% in Los Angeles and 4% in the United States as a whole relative to 100% gasoline. Ozone increases in Los Angeles and the northeast were partially offset by decreases in the southeast. E85 also increased peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) in the U.S. but was estimated to cause little change in cancer risk. Due to its ozone effects, future E85 may be a greater overall public health risk than gasoline. However, because of the uncertainty in future emission regulations, it can be concluded with confidence only that E85 is unlikely to improve air quality over future gasoline vehicles. Unburned ethanol emissions from E85 may result in a global-scale source of acetaldehyde larger than that of direct emission.

Science Friday 20 April 2007 features an interview with Jakobson.

On ethanol see also Aplia econ-blog post on the impact of the increase of US corn based ethanol production on tortillas’ prices in Mexico.

Supreme Court Decision in Massachusetts et al vs. EPA

On April 2, 2007 the Supreme Court released its ruling in the case of the state of Massachusetts vs. the Environmental Protection Agency. Massachusetts and eleven other states, along with several local governments and non-governmental organizations (petitioners), sued the EPA for not regulating the emissions of four greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide (CO2), from the transportation sector. The petitioners claimed that human-influenced global climate change was causing adverse effects, such as sea-level rise, to the state of Massachusetts. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in favor of Massachusetts et al, finding that EPA has the authority to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The decision was written by Justice Stevens and was signed by Justices Kennedy, Souter, Bader Ginsburg, and Breyer. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas dissented. ” (Read more from Pew Center Global Climate Change).
Listen to Science Friday podcast on the ruling.

Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement

… it’s not easy. On this sunny Saturday afternoon, while at the task of writing mine for my teaching portfolio, I stumbled on the very helpful Writing a Teaching Philosophy by the Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

I also found useful the documents by the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University on Creating a Teaching Portfolio, Components of a Teaching Portfolio, Teaching-Related Questions for Academic Job Interviews, and Documenting Student Evaluations for the Teaching Portfolio.

Finally I enjoyed reading Ohio State University’s tips on Developing a Teaching Portfolio.

Hopefully these documents will be useful to you too.

Interdisciplinary Encounters – seminar

The Department of Philosophy of the University of Helsinki organizes a very interesting seminar on the horizontal interactions between social sciences as well as on the relationship between social sciences and cognitive and life sciences.

The theme for the next session 19 April will be Rational Choice and Political Science and Beyond. Session III 26 April will discuss the Cognitive Foundations of Social Science and session IV 3 May Economics Imperialism and Explanatory Unification.

If you wish to participate please contact the instructor Uskali Mäki, Academy Professor, Academy of Finland uskali.maki at

The seminar meets Thursdays 13 16 at the Department of Philosophy, Siltavuorenpenger 20A, Room 334d.