BOULDER, Colo., Aug. 11 (UPI) — Pollution produced by the petroleum industry has fallen in recent years, a study says, but a big hurdle remains in accurately measuring the improvement.
Researchers with the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the industry still significantly underestimates the amounts of reactive chemicals being released into the air, a university release said Wednesday.
Inaccuracies in the reporting of levels pose big challenges for the reduction and regulation of emissions coming from petrochemical plants, they say.
“Emissions may have decreased some, but there’s still a long way to go,” study author Joost de Gouw, an atmospheric scientist, says. “And the emission inventories by industry were not any better in 2006 than they were in 2000.”
States that suffer from ozone problems are required by the federal government to scientifically model what happens during air pollution episodes and develop plans for mitigation.
For that to happen effectively, modelers need good inventories, the researchers say.
“Initial inventories are not based on measurements. They’re based on estimates,” de Gouw says. “When you go back to verify those estimates, we find they’re not very accurate.”
Industry-reported inventories supplied to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency don’t agree with the figures collected for the new study, researchers say.
“There are a lot of discussions with the petrochemical industry on how to measure these things instead of relying on estimates,” de Gouw says. “I think the number one issue here is awareness. As soon as industry is aware that there could be emissions problems down the road, they can figure out how to fix them at lower cost.”
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