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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 (pipeline spills happen every day), 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

The transportation sector is the biggest source of carbon emissions at 27% of the total US carbon footprint, 38% for California, and 47% for Washington State.

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. In 2017 alone, these types of natural disasters cost the nation $306 billion. Moving away from gasoline-powered vehicles to clean alternatives is critical to the effort to avert catastrophic climate change.

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 US, vehicle emissions are the largest source of carbon monoxides (up to 95% in cities) and nitrogen oxides, causing up to 14,700 premature deaths per year. 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 in adolescents, 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. On average, every tank of gas burned costs $18 in health and climate costs.

Exposure to harmful toxic air pollutants from other vehicles is higher inside vehicles than outside; your vehicle is basically a “box collecting toxic gases from the vehicles around you.”

California was ranked dead last for 17 of 18 years for air quality by the American Lung Association — and that was before the recent wildfires. Seventy percent of Californians live in areas with unhealthy air, much of it caused by the ozone (smog) and particle pollution from vehicle emissions. Seattle is the 15th most polluted city for short-term particle pollution.

Gasoline purchases finance oil suppliers, including despots in the Middle East. Driving a gas car means:

  • writing a check to Big Oil for hundreds of dollars a year;
  • supporting the perpetuation of myths and dirty tactics to keep the public tethered to polluting gasoline;
  • financing the secret agendas of Big Oil and the Koch Brothers – agendas that people who support the environment and civil rights may not agree with, and funding false claims that fossil fuels are preferable for people of color;
  • helping Big Oil get certain people elected – for many of us, canceling out our vote for someone else.


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.

Electricity is getting cleaner every year, as more of it comes from clean, renewable sources like sun and wind, and 24/7 power from renewables plus battery storage is becoming cheaper than fossil fuels. In all 50 states, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2020 analysis, the global warming emissions from an electric vehicle are less than those of a gas car, even when considered across the lifetime of the vehicle. 2021 analyses concurs. Overall, fossil fuel vehicle make hundreds of times more wasted 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, electric vehicle batteries today are lasting 400,000 miles and more. New technology promises EV batteries that last 2 million miles, and new EVs today may already have million-mile batteries. 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 largely (or fully) recycled, and recycling efforts are advancing.

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

The answer is: 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 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 about 6 years of driving, the EV wins on lifetime emissions. Plus, when you drive an EV, the “neighborhood effect” of that act gets your neighbors interested in EVs, too. This helps grow the EV market, displacing more gasoline and making EVs more available and cheaper for all.

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

Widespread adoption of electric vehicles would reduce electricity rates for all customers — even those who don’t drive an electric vehicle.

The electric grid can handle a shift to EVs. In California, adding 3.9 million EVs would require only a 5% increase in grid capacity. The grid in Texas already has capacity to accommodate a complete transition to electric vehicles charged during off-peak hours. Assuming electric vehicles charge during off-peak hours, it’s estimated that across the country, the electric grid could already accommodate 160 million electric vehicles today. And electric vehicles themselves, with their giant batteries that can charge when sources of electricity like solar and wind are plentiful, can improve grid stability and efficiency, and help utilities integrate more renewable energy onto the grid.

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 costs less than half as much to travel the same distance in an EV than a conventional vehicle.

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

The average price of a light-duty vehicle is $37,400, according to Kelley Blue Book. Many electric vehicles have a lower sticker price than that, including the Nissan Leaf ($30k), Hyndai Ioniq Electric ($30k), Volkswagen eGolf ($32k), Fiat 500e ($33k), Kia Soul EV ($34k), Tesla Model 3 ($35,400), Chevy Bolt EV ($36,600), Hyundai Kona Electric SUV ($36,900) and the Kandi ($10,000 after federal rebate). There’s even a Chinese EV available for order online for just $1,200.

In certain vehicle segments, average prices are already lower for electric vehicles (those in green in the below price comparison):

There are many EV makes and models, including all electric SUVs like the Kia Niro and the Hyundai Kona. A robust lineup of electric pickup trucks will hit the U.S. market in 2021.

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

Many EV models get more than 200 miles per charge. The average American drives less than 40 miles a day.

Electric vehicles are safer than gas cars. Electric vehicles can be charged every night while you sleep -- no more waiting at gas stations and breathing toxic fumes.

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.

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 $5/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.

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.) 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.

Low income Californians: $5,000 off a new or used EV, plus free EV charging installed at home.

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Join Us!


Big Oil spends millions of dollars on ads and millions more on lobbying.

We need all the help we can get to spread the word about gasoline.

People across the country are joining our movement to improve climate, health and equity by moving beyond gasoline to cleaner alternatives.

Why wait? Join us and donate today!