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July 24, 2023
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ADDRESSING CONCERNS ABOUT ELECTRIC VEHICLE BATTERIES
July 24, 2023
 

The Life Cycle Harms of Gasoline

 

INCLUDING the consequences of fracking on the environment and the effects of carbon dioxide on the environment

Crude oil comes from the decomposition of dead plants and animals over hundreds of millions of years. Oil and the refined product, gasoline, are both liquid and highly combustible. They spill, leak and explode, causing death, destruction and environmental harm. The environmental concerns of fracking and the impact of CO2 on the environment are also discussed. The specific examples that follow are representative of much more widespread disasters.

 
 

1) The Harms of Oil Extraction and Exploration for Gasoline


In 2010, the exploratory oil rig Deepwater Horizon exploded when a plug failed, killing 11 men, releasing 4.9 million barrels of crude oil, and creating an 80-square-mile "kill zone“.

 

Impacts of an oil spill cleanup can be as bad as the impacts of the spill itself. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, The U.S. Coast Guard conducted a burn to help prevent the spread of oil. Here, clouds of harmful smoke emerge as the oil burns.

 

With the extracted oil comes methane. In the Arctic, oil companies burn the methane in a controlled process called flaring. Flaring produces black carbon, otherwise known as soot.

 

The Environmental Concerns of Fracking

Fracking is an oil extraction technique using pressurized water and chemicals and proppants to create and maintain fissures in rocks containing hydrocarbons. Infrastructure to support fracking has directly damaged at least 679,000 acres of land since 2005, an area slightly smaller than Yosemite National Park. In 2014, bringing new fracked wells into production released 5.3 billion pounds of methane – equivalent to the emissions from 22 coal-fired power plants.

 

The Environmental Impact of Hydrofracking

Across the country, fracking wastewater has leaked from retention ponds or escaped from faulty disposal wells and contaminated the drinking water.

 

2) The Harms of Transporting Oil to Make Gasoline


Once oil is extracted, it has to be transported to a refinery. One way to transport oil is by ocean tanker. These tankers often have accidents and spills. Here’s the Exxon Valdez, wreaking havoc in the sensitive Alaskan habitat in 1989. 

 

Check out this youtube video on major oil spills around the world.

The Environmental Impact of Oil Spills

Spilled oil harms sea otters and seabirds on the sea surface or shorelines. Sea otters’ ability to stay warm depends on their fur remaining clean.

 

Oil is also transported by trains, called “bomb trains” for the destruction they cause when they derail. This one wiped out much of Lac Megantic, Quebec in 2013. It had 72 tank cars, each carrying 30,000 gallons of crude oil. It destroyed half the downtown area and killed 42 people.

 

The most common way of transporting oil is by pipeline. Pipelines are created in sections held together by joints that can break. Many of the pipelines in the US are more than 50 years old and located underground where their deterioration is hidden.

More than 100 oil pipeline spills and leaks are reported per year, including the 2017 spill of 407,000 gallons from the Keystone Pipeline in South Dakota.

 

3) The Harms of Refining Oil to Make Gasoline


Crude oil must be refined to make gasoline. This is the 2012 explosion at the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond, California – caused by a corroded pipe that burst. 15,000 residents sought medical treatment, and Chevron paid out claims of more than $10 million. Additional explosions and fires occurred at this Refinery in 1989, 1999, and 2014, along with a spill in 2021.

 

4) The Harms of Storing Gasoline


After oil is refined into gasoline, it’s delivered to gas stations, where it is stored in giant underground storage tanks. Over the last 20 years, more than 500,000 leaks from these tanks were confirmed, and nearly 61,000 remain to be cleaned up.

 

5) The Harms of Using Gasoline


The final stage is using the gasoline by burning it. This causes two harms. The first is air pollution. In 2015, vehicle emissions caused around 385,000 deaths worldwide, with health impacts estimated at $1 trillion.

 

The Environmental Impact of Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

The second harm of burning gasoline is that it overloads the atmosphere with climate-warming carbon dioxide, or CO2. Transportation (mostly from passenger vehicles) is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the US.

U.S. Shares of Energy-Related Emissions of Carbon Dioxide, by Economic Sector, 2021

Burning gasoline also harms the atmosphere by emitting carbon dioxide, or CO2. Transportation (mostly from passenger vehicles) is the largest source of CO2 emissions in California.

The US uses more gasoline than any other country by far.

 

CO2 isn’t harmful in and of itself –it’s necessary for life on earth. The problem comes when we overload the earth’s atmosphere with CO2. Our atmosphere is like a blanket around the earth, and adding CO2 makes that blanket thicker so it retains more of the sun’s heat.

 

By emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases at unprecedented levels, we’ve caused land and ocean temperatures to rise, which results in more extreme weather events.

 

We are seeing record years for natural disasters – disasters of the very type caused by rising temperatures. These disasters can cost up to $1,000 for every single person in the US in just one year -- not to mention the loss of life and property.

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Conclusion

 
 

In sum, gasoline causes harm across its life cycle, and burning gasoline in US vehicles is a major source of air pollution and carbon emissions. We must move beyond gasoline at speed and scale. The future depends on you!

 

What You Can Do

Ask legislators to set gasoline reduction goals

Ask automakers to speed up EV production and provide more electric models at every price

Ask your employer and landlord for EV charging

Visit our make the switch to an EV page to see if getting an EV is right for you

Take the next step towards cleaner air! Sign up for the Beyond Gasoline newsletter

 
The Life Cycle Harms of Gasoline
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