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The Fortnight

Joke on the planet

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Jun 30, 1998 | From the print edition

-- the use of catalytic converter has significantly contributed to the global warming, according to the Environmental Protection Agency ( epa ). For the last 20 years, these devices have extensively been used to reduce smog from cars. The device breaks down compounds of nitrogen and oxygen from car exhausts that can combine with hydrocarbons and turn into smog.

Scientists have suspected for years that the converters sometimes rearrange the nitrogen-oxygen compounds to form nitrous oxide, known as laughing gas. Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas, nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, the most common of the gases that warm the atmosphere.

The epa has not devised any solution as yet. But auto industry experts feel that they can fiddle with the catalytic converter in such a way that it would not add to the global warming. Environmentalists say that increased production of nitrous oxide is yet another reason to move away from gasoline-powered cars. The epa study shows that nitrous oxide may represent about one-sixth of the global warming effect that results from gasoline use.

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