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Naturally occurring food and fuel contain complex carbon-based molecules, chiefly derived from plant matter that has been formed by photosynthesis. The chemical reaction of these molecules with oxygen releases energy; such reactions provide energy for most animal life and for residential, commercial, and industrial activities.

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The principal biogenic hydrocarbon contributing to O3 formation is isoprene, CH2=CH-C(CH3)=CH2, an odorless compound which is a by-product of photosynthesis. Isoprene is a diene (two double bonds) and therefore reacts extremely rapidly with OH; its atmospheric lifetime is less than one hour and its decomposition can produce large amounts of O3 and HOx. Emission of isoprene by vegetation was discovered only in the 1960s, and reliable emission inventories were not available until the 1990s. These inventories now show that isoprene emission in the United States is larger than the sum of all anthropogenic hydrocarbon emissions; even without anthropogenic hydrocarbons, isoprene emission would be sufficient to make O3 production NOx-limited everywhere in the United States except in large urban centers. It appears on the basis of present knowledge that future improvements in O3 air quality over the United States will require a vigorous program of NOx emisssion controls.

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. The chemical reaction by which plants produce complex food molecules (sugars) requires an energy input (i.e., from sunlight) to occur. In this reaction, carbon dioxide and water combine to form carbon-based organic molecules and release oxygen. (Boundary: Further details of the photosynthesis process are not taught at this grade level.)

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