Exercise III. MTBE Motives
The Internet is a useful tool for gathering information. It is always important however to check the source. Information is often written up and presented by companies, the government, or other organizations to convey particular messages. The same information might be presented in different ways depending on who is presenting it.
The excerpt below is from a Web site maintained by a New York State law firm (What is MTBE). Compare the information presented in this article with that in other methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) information sources. The MTBE Information chart below will help you compare information from different sources.
Other MTBE Information Sources
U.S. Geological Survey
STATEMENT, ROBERT M.HIRSCH, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR WATER, U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE, SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS
Environmental Protection Agency
What Is MTBE?
MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) is a synthetic chemical that is added to gasoline to improve air quality as part of the Clean Air Act (CAA). MTBE is usually added to Reformulated Gasoline (RFG), oxygenated fuel and premium grades of unleaded gasoline. MTBE improves air quality because it contains oxygen in each molecule. It is considered to be an oxygenate. When oxygenates are added to gasoline, they reduce the amount of carbon monoxide, which is the poisonous gas that cars produce.
The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) RFG program requires oxygenates to be used in gasoline in areas where there is severe ozone pollution. In approximately 84 percent of the RFG, MTBE is the oxygenate being used. Oxyfuel, which usually contains ethanol as the oxygenate, is supposed to be used in areas with severe carbon monoxide pollution. However, in some areas, MTBE is used as the oxygenate in oxyfuel.
The problem with MTBE is that it's contaminating the soil, air and drinking water, and may be causing health issues for people that are exposed to it. Since there is such a large amount of gasoline (much of it containing MTBE) being produced and distributed everyday, there are many ways for MTBE to be released into the soil, air and water. It can leak from underground storage tanks (USTs); accidental fuel spills; automobile and tanker accidents; motorized recreation on lakes and drinking water reservoirs; spills and drips when refueling automobiles, lawnmowers, tractors and other machines; and leaks from pipelines and aboveground storage tanks.
Studies are being conducted to find out how MTBE affects people who have been exposed to it. It has been found that when a person drinks water that has been contaminated by MTBE, which smells and tastes like turpentine, the person's liver will convert it into formaldehyde and tertiary butyl alcohol (TBA), which a person's body has a hard time eliminating from the body. When MTBE gets into the air it is converted into tertiary butyl formate (TBF), which causes problems in a person's respiratory system.
Many of the symptoms that people are experiencing due to MTBE exposure include a long-lasting cough, sinus problems, headaches, nervousness, dizziness, nausea, insomnia, watering eyes, irritated eyes and skin rash. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're due to MTBE exposure. These symptoms are very similar to other diseases and illnesses, so you may want to consult a physician.
Extensive research is being done to figure out how to get MTBE out of the soil, air and drinking water. Some head way has been made in cleaning up the soil, but the major problem is getting it out of the drinking water. MTBE is very mobile, less degradable and more soluble in water than other gasoline toxins, which makes it nearly impossible to remove it. The only real solution to the MTBE problem seems to be to take it out of the gasoline. Some states such as California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and South Dakota don't use MTBE in the gasoline anymore. Many other states are moving towards banning MTBE as well. The EPA has placed MTBE on its list of contaminants, but the Agency is still studying the possible health affects associated with MTBE.
Information Source 1
Information Source 2
Information Source 3
1. What are the sources of MTBE? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 2. What are the benefits of MTBE? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 3. How much gasoline in the United States contains MTBE? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 4. What are alternatives to MTBE? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 5. What are the disadvantages of using MTBE? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 6. How does MTBE affect humans? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 7. What is unknown about MTBE? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 8. What does the author recommend as a solution? Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3 9. Is this article objective or subjective? Give reasons why. (Answer for all three sources you used.) Information Source 1 Information Source 2 Information Source 3
What could a law firm gain by writing an article about MTBE?