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Fuelish Roundup

November 30, 2007

Low grade, high-sulfur bunker fuel is deadly to wildlife and humans. So why is it still in use?



The cleanest and dirtiest fuels. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The fuel recently spilled into San Francisco Bay was bunker fuel, a thick, low-grade refining product over a thousand times higher in sulfur than truck diesel. A study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology found that the burning of bunker fuel by ships causes 60,000 deaths per year. That’s a result of the high levels of pollution released by ships in heavily populated port cities. The threat to the environment if bunker oil is spilled, and the threat to people if it’s burned, is leading many environmental groups to call for a ban on the fuel.

In other fuel news, Penn State researchers report that they’ve designed a fuel cell that is highly efficient at producing hydrogen from almost any waste matter. Their reactor uses bacteria to generate the fuel, which produces no pollution and can be blended with natural gas. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.