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Gasoline Facts

Like air pollution, climate change impacts vulnerable populations the most, including our children, seniors and communities already disadvantaged by pollution and poverty. As a pediatrician, I see firsthand the harm caused by our oil addiction. Children living in polluted areas experience higher rates of asthma and slowed lung development. This is a terrible burden we are putting on our children and future generations. We must dedicate all available resources to get off fossil fuels to protect children today and into the future.

Afif El-Hasan, MD

What’s So Bad About Gasoline?

A gallon of gasoline weighs 6 pounds. When it is burned in our cars, the carbon pulls an additional 14 pounds of oxygen from the air to release 20 pounds of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that is the main driver of climate change.

Gasoline, and the crude oil it comes from, cause environmental harms all along its life cycle, from oil exploration and extraction, to moving the oil, to refining it into gasoline, to storing it in underground tanks at gas stations, to burning it in our cars.

Life Cycle Harms of Gasoline


In California, the transportation sector is the biggest source of carbon emissions at 38% of total emissions.

The US is by far the biggest gasoline user on the planet, consuming almost 35% of the world’s gasoline

In 2022, gasoline and diesel consumption in the U.S. transportation sector resulted in the emission of about 1,476 MMmt of CO2 – about 30% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.

Overloading the earth's atmosphere with carbon dioxide is causing warming land and ocean temperatures resulting in more severe storms, droughts and other weather events. Eight months into 2023, the U.S. had already set a new annual record, with 23 extreme weather events that have cost at least $1 billion each in the damage they have caused. Moving away from gasoline-powered vehicles to cleaner alternatives is critical to cutting emissions.

Vehicle emissions from burning gasoline and diesel fuels contain toxic pollutants including carbon monoxide, smog-causing volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides, formaldehyde and benzene. Across the U.S., vehicle emissions are the largest source of carbon monoxides (up to 95% in cities) and nitrogen oxides. They are also a major source of benzene, a carcinogen linked to leukemia, blood disorders and infertility. Vehicle emissions account for 80% of smog-causing air pollution in California. They increase risks of asthma, heart and lung disease, dementia and cancers – especially in children and for those who live near busy roads or commute long distances. Living near busy roads has been linked to developmental delays in children and disorders in pregnancy. Vehicle emissions have been linked to mental illness, including anxiety and depression, and diesel school bus emissions in particular have been shown to adversely affect academic performance and student health.

In the US, 17,000 to 20,000 people die each year from vehicle pollution. People of color are disproportionately affected, breathing an average of 66% more air pollution from cars and trucks than white residents in some regions. 

Exposure to harmful toxic air pollutants from other vehicles is higher inside vehicles than outside; your car cabin is basically a “box with small holes for gas exchange” and this can lead to unhealthy air pollutants accumulating.

According to the American Lung Association, California continues to have some of the worst air quality in the country. For 2019, 2020 and 2021, of the eleven US counties with the worst combined short-term particle pollution, ozone, and long-term particle pollution levels, ten were in California. One in three people in the nation are exposed to unhealthy air, much of it caused by the ozone (smog) and particle pollution from vehicle emissions. Los Angeles is the most polluted city in the nation in terms of ozone pollution.


If we all had electric vehicles today, it would be ridiculous to switch to gasoline-powered cars.

We’re Ready To Phase Out Gasoline And Move To Cleaner Alternatives.


How Are Evs Better Than Gas-powered Cars?

Electricity is getting cleaner every year, as more of it comes from clean, renewable sources like sun and wind. Replacing existing coal-fired power plants with 24/7 power from renewables plus battery storage has become cheaper across the U.S. than leaving the coal plants in place.

In all 50 states, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the annual emissions from an electric vehicle are less than those of a gas car.  Across the lifetime of the vehicle, total emissions depend on how much the vehicle is driven. For a gas car, the day it leaves the dealership lot is its cleanest day; for an EV, the day it leaves the dealership is its dirtiest day. If the EV is never driven, over its lifetime it will have more total emissions than a gas car, because (currently!) more emissions are involved in the manufacture of an EV and its battery than for a gas car.  The more the vehicles are driven, the faster the EV becomes cleaner than the gas car. The typical “crossover” point for EVs is typically 15,000 to 20,000 miles.  

In model year 2023, the highest-rated EPA combined fuel economy for gasoline vehicles was about 60 miles per gallon (MPG), while EVs achieved up to 140 mpg-equivalent (MPGe). (MPGe is an EPA measure of EV fuel economy in a common unit with gas-powered vehicles, where 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity are equal to the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline.) 

Fossil fuel vehicles make around twelve times more carbon dioxide than EVs. Claims to the contrary have been widely debunked. Indeed, in 95% of the world, EVs are cleaner.

Gasoline will always be a polluting fossil fuel that is burned once and gone forever. In contrast, there are reports of electric vehicle batteries lasting 350,000 miles. New technology promises batteries lasting more than a million miles. After the batteries can’t be used in vehicles, they have a second life providing battery electric storage for buildings. After that, their raw materials can be almost fully recycled, and recycling efforts are continuing to improve with government incentives. And EV batteries continue to get cleaner and cheaper.


Which is greener: Driving your gas car into the ground, or switching to an EV today?

The answer is: If you use a lot of gasoline, switch to an EV today! The day the EV rolls off the lot is its dirtiest day; the day the gas car rolls off the lot is its cleanest day. Comparing lifetime carbon emissions, after you’ve driven the EV for about a year in most cases (depending on how much you drive, the model of car and the electricity mix where you live), the EV hits “carbon parity” and is cleaner than the gas car. Even where electricity comes from coal, within 6 years of driving on average, the EV wins on lifetime emissions. 

Plus, when you drive an EV, you might just get your neighbors and coworkers interested through the “neighborhood effect” or the “workplace effect”. This helps grow the EV market, displacing more gasoline and making EVs more available and cheaper for all. Widespread adoption of electric vehicles would reduce electricity rates for all customers — even those who don’t drive an electric vehicle.

Switching to electric vehicles would move billions of dollars from crude oil (much of it imported from OPEC countries) to the domestic economy.

EV battery manufacturing is getting cleaner, and other concerns about EV batteries are being addressed.


Electric vehicles are already affordable today. Lifetime costs for many electric vehicles are already cheaper than for gas cars, due to cheaper fuel (electricity), and half the maintenance costs of gas cars. The US Department of Energy states that on a national average, it can cost about half as much to travel the same distance in an EV than a conventional vehicle.

There are many EV makes and models, including all electric SUVs like the Kia Niro, the Hyundai Ioniq 5, and the Nissan Ariya.

The average price of a light-duty vehicle is $49,507, according to Kelley Blue Book. But EV prices are falling, and many electric vehicles have a lower sticker price than that, including the Nissan Leaf ($28k), Mini Cooper SE (30k), Mazda MX-30 (33,500), Chevy Bolt EV ($26,500), Hyundai Kona Electric SUV ($33,550) and the Kandi ($10,000 after federal rebate). There’s even a Chinese EV available for order online for just $1,200

State and federal EV rebates and incentives can knock $10,000 off the price of an electric vehicle ($12,000 for low-income drivers).

Electric vehicle leases can be had for less than $10/day, and on top of that, Californians can get a state rebate of $2,500 ($4,500 for low-income Californians). Learn more about the EV rebate and incentives in California.

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Used electric vehicles are available in many parts of the country for $6,000 or less. (Low-income Californians can take $5,000 off the cost of a used electric vehicle, AND get free charging installed at home while funds last each year) Qualifying residents of San Mateo County can get $4,000 off the cost of a used plug-in hybrid vehicle, and Bay Area residents who qualify for the Clean Cars for All program also get $5,500 to $9,500 off a used EV plus free home charger installation.


Especially as electric vehicles are proving able to go 350,000 miles on the original battery, and one million-mile battery hopefully hitting the market soon, getting an electric vehicle will be like getting 2 or 3 cars for the price of one.

Many EV models get more than 250 miles per charge. The average American drives less than 40 miles a day.  

If you have a regular household electrical outlet (110 volts) within reach of your electric vehicle, you can add about 40 to 60 miles of range overnight.

The electric grid can handle the current shift rate to EVs. In 2021, EVs used less than  0.2% of electricity generated. There won’t be any real impact on the grid until 15% of vehicles are electric, meaning electric vehicles won’t overload the grid anytime soon. Even better, according to CleanTechnica, in most places, 100% EVs could charge overnight on the current power generators. If 100% of the vehicles on the road are electric by 2050, this would only require 1% annual growth in electricity generation. Not only that, but EVs could help improve the grid as we know it: charged EVs could help stabilize the grid and even aid in the event of a blackout. EV batteries could help power the home, or even send energy back into the grid with improving V2G (vehicle to grid) technology. This means EVs might be key to grid stability and efficiency, as well as helping utilities integrate more renewable energy into the grid.

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Conclusion - Other Benefits

There are many benefits to phasing out sales of new gasoline vehicles. Switching US vehicles from gasoline to electric will bring economic benefits and job growth.

Electric vehicles are safer than gas cars. Not only that, but electric vehicles can be charged every night while you sleep -- no more waiting at gas stations and breathing toxic fumes.

Finally, moving to electric vehicles from gasoline advances environmental justice and equity — although fossil fuel companies are trying to spin a narrative to the contrary.

A number of states and dozens of countries have announced plans or laws to ban the sale of gas-powered vehicles as of a certain date (ranging from 2025 to 2040).

By prioritizing Gasoline Superusers for the switch to EVs, we can reduce emissions faster and provide financial relief to those spending a significant portion of their income on gasoline.

Coltura's 2024 report, "Country Crossroads," exposes the hidden challenges faced by "rural Gasoline Superusers" — a small subset of rural drivers constituting less than 4% of the US population but account for nearly 13% of the nation's gasoline usage.

Learn more about Coltura’s gasoline superuser approach.

Learn from our free webinar about how the gasoline superuser approach can help reduce air pollution faster and more equitably.

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