Gasoline and Oil

Gasoline MSDS


Gasoline Prices

In 2011, here is where our oil was used in the US.

What Does Gasoline REALLY cost?

Milton Copulos testified in late March, 2006 at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "The Hidden Cost of Oil" with updated projections on his original 2003 report.

According Copulos, who is a senior fellow with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and with the National Defense Council Foundation:

"Adding up the above, the hidden cost of oil imports skyrocketed to $779.5 billion in 2005. That would be equivalent to adding $4.10 to the price of a gallon of gasoline if amortized over the total volume of imports. For Persian Gulf imports, because of the enormous military costs associated with the region, the "hidden cost" was equal to adding $7.41 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline. When the nominal cost is combined with this figure it yields a "true" cost of $9.53 per gallon." Worse, he sees the costs for 2006 totaling a staggering $825 billion.

"This would bring the "real" price of a gallon of gasoline refined from Persian Gulf oil to $10.86. At these prices the "real" cost of filling up a family sedan is $217.20, and filling up a large SUV $325.80." (Darell's note - this is for 2005)


" ....Washington D.C. -- A report released today by the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) calculates that the actual cost of a gallon of gas to the American consumer could be as high as $15.14. The report "The Real Price of Gas" identifies and quantifies the many external costs of using gas that consumers pay indirectly by way of taxes, insurance costs and retail prices in other sectors. Established in 1994, the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA), is a Washington-based research organization that analyzes how technology affects society...."

"At a minimum, the price of a single gallon of gas is well over the $16.50 mark. That means that if we paid the real price of gas at the pump it would cost more than $305 to fill up a Toyota Camry."

The report divides the external costs of gasoline usage into five primary areas: (1) Tax Subsidization of the Oil Industry; (2) Government Program Subsidies; (3) Protection Costs Involved in Oil Shipment and Motor Vehicle Services; (4) Environmental, Health, and Social Costs of Gasoline Usage; and (5) Other Important Externalities of Motor Vehicle Use. Together, these external costs total $558.7 billion to $1.69 trillion per year, which, when added to the retail price of gasoline, result in a per gallon price of $5.60 to $15.14.

This pdf lists the specific tax breaks, sweet deals, exemptions and giveaways targeted by the Sanders bill; it identifies the code section for each loophole, provides a short explanation, projects the dollar amount over ten years that each perk is projected to benefit the industry (and cost the taxpayers), gives the source of the figures, and provides a total.

"It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil. We'll use the next trillion in 30."

What is in a Gallon of Gas?

Everyone knows fossil fuels come from long-dead plants, but Jeffrey Dukes wanted real numbers: How much plant matter does it take to make a gallon of gasoline? Dukes, a biologist, ecologist, and dabbler in biogeochemistry at the University of Massachusetts, discovered that such statistics are hard to find. So he decided to figure them out for himself and was surprised by the answers. A gallon of gas represents roughly 100 tons of plant matter, the amount that exists in 40 acres of wheat. Burning that gallon puts 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air. The annual consumption of gasoline in the United States, about 131 billion gallons of gas, is equivalent to 25 quadrillion pounds of prehistoric biomass and releases some 2.6 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide. The numbers are even more sobering when you consider all the fossil fuels—coal, natural gas, and oil—that people consume. Since 1751, roughly the start of the Industrial Revolution, humans have burned the amount of fossil fuel that would have come from all the plants on Earth for 13,300 years. “We know that fossil-fuel use is not sustainable in the long run,” Dukes says. “This study will, I hope, encourage people to face up to the energy problem now.”

"Despite 119 years of refinement, the modern car remains astonishingly inefficient. Only 13 percent of its fuel energy even reaches the wheels-the other 87 percent is either dissipated as heat and noise in the engine and drive train or lost to idling and accessories such as air conditioners. Of the energy delivered to the wheels, more than half heats the tires, road and air. Just 6 percent of the fuel energy actually accelerates the car (and all the energy converts to brake heating when you stop). And, because 95 percent of the accelerated mass is the car itself, less than 1 percent of the fuel ends up moving the driver." - Amory B. Lovins from "More Profit with Less Carbon."

Is it better to focus on increasing gas mileage of our high-mileage cars, or better to focus on the low-mileage cars?

The answer is not obvious, and may surprise you. Let us assume two common vehicles. One gets 10 mpg (Hummer) and the other gets 50 mpg (Prius). We figure out a magic way to wave a wand and double the mileage of both vehicles. The Hummer now gets 20 mpg, and the Prius gets 100 mpg. Which vehicle saves more gas now versus before the magic conversion?

We'll assume that each vehicle is driven 10,000 miles per year.

Original Hummer: 10 mpg / 10,000 miles driven = 1,000 gallons per year.
Converted Hummer: 20 mpg / 10,000 miles driven = 500 gallons per year.
..... So after the conversion, the new Hummer has saved 500 gallons per year.

Original Prius: 50 mpg / 10,000 miles driven = 200 gallons per year
Converted Prius: 100 mpg / 10,000 miles driven = 100 gallons per year.
...... So after the conversion, the new Prius has saved only 100 gallons per year.

Should be clear now, that we get more return on improving the low end of the scale than wasting money on the high end. Of course the big winner is going from 10 mpg up to 50. That is where are efforts should be aimed. And we don't need new technology to do it in most cases. Education would go a long way to getting single-occupant commuters out of their full-size SUVs, and into more reasonable commute vehicles.

Why is Gallons per 100 miles a better way to express efficiency than our current Miles per Gallon?

Using MPG to come to an arithmetic mean or total in quantity is erroneous. Adding two or more rates then dividing to get an average is incorrect. Example: Two vehicles - one getting 50 mpg and the other getting 20 mpg. Each driven the same distance (100 miles). They do not actually consume fuel at the 'apparent' average of the two; i.e. 35 mpg or 2.86 GPC (gallon per hundred miles).

The first vehicle uses 2.0 gal to go 100 mi while the second uses 5.0 gal to go 100 mi. Now those two numbers can be added and averaged to come to a 3.75 GPC 'true' average. Oops. That's a bit higher than the 2.86 GPC figured above, isn't it?

The auto makers will tell you something like this: "We have a truck that gets 18.0 mpg on average and an compact sedan that gets 40 mpg on average so our fleet mileage is 29 MPG!"

One is lead to believe that if the two different vehicles were each driven 100 miles that together they'd use 6.9 gal of fuel (200 / 29). When really the two vehicles use 5.6 gal and 2.5 gal respectively, or 8.1 gal together. That is an error of 18%! The US automakers don't want to change from the comfortable and well-known MPG system for obvious reasons. Our CAFE numbers are based on this incorrect math!

We "get" 50 miles per gallon. While we "use" 2 gallons to go 100 miles. This should be a consumption-based measure - how much gas we use to travel a certain distance.

We really shouldn't subsidize EVs. That just gives the rich lefties another toy.

You are absolutely right. The federal government shouldn't subsidize EVs.

Instead, all gasoline / oil subsidies should be withdrawn. After 150 years in the business, oil should not be subsidized any longer. All the "externalities" should be properly accounted for and priced. Afterall you don't beleive in socializing costs and privatizing profits, do you ?

This includes
- "security" costs in the middle east. Let the big oil and saudis pay thoses costs. We will save $500 Billion a year !
- All environmental costs should be priced and excise duties placed on oil to account for that
- All healthcare costs of burning oil should be be priced and excise duties placed on oil to account for that

What do you think the price of oil will be if we do this? By some estimates, $480 a barrel. How do you think the "making $54,000, live in the suburbs and rural areas, and depend heavily on their cars" people will fare with $10 a gallon gas? The good news is that I'm sure EVs would no longer need any subsidies!

After 50 years of OPEC, it's time to wean the U.S. economy from oil dependence
By Steve Marshall
Special to The Times

OPEC, the oil cartel whose members control most of the world's oil reserves, celebrates its 50th anniversary Tuesday. In September of 1960, the governments of Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela met in Baghdad to discuss ways to increase the price of the crude oil they produced. They ended up creating the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. But for the United States, it is nothing to celebrate.
That year, the United States was the strongest creditor nation in the world and had a relatively small need for imported oil.

But by 1973, our rising demand for oil meant we had to import 34 percent of the oil we used. That year, following the Yom Kippur War, Arab members of OPEC led an oil embargo against America. Long lines formed as service stations rationed gasoline, and the economy suffered. Every president since then vowed to end our dependence on foreign oil.

The result? We now import 60 percent of our oil. In 50 years, we have gone from being a strong creditor nation to a debtor nation sinking into deeper debt with every month of oil imports. A major cause of our currently stalled economy is the vast amount we spend importing oil, averaging a billion dollars a day over the past three years. In June alone, oil imports accounted for $27 billion of the $47 billion trade deficit. Most members of OPEC are undemocratic, hostile to our interests or both. If trends continue, OPEC will increase in power and revenues as the oil output of non-OPEC nations decline. We are at risk. Abundant, affordable energy is a fundamental requirement for a strong economy and a high standard of living, including the ability to fund government services.

After the Arab oil embargo, we made some changes. In 1973, we generated more than 20 percent of our electric power with oil; now it's less than 2 percent. But in transportation, we still live in an OPEC dream. About 97 percent of our transportation depends on oil.

Last week, President Obama called for a $50 billion investment in the nation's roads, railways and airports. But if our cars, trains and planes still depend only on oil, we will have just made it easier to transfer more wealth to OPEC. (We will spend more than $50 billion in just two months worth of oil imports). At the top of the infrastructure checklist should be measures to cut our dependence on oil.

In April, the U.S. adopted new rules for fuel economy and emissions. By 2016, cars will have to get 37.8 miles per gallon; 28.8 mpg for light trucks. But this won't be enough to break our dependence. To do this, we need to move much faster to electricity and alternative fuels in our vehicles, and we need to transform the systems for moving people and goods.

We will need regulatory reform for electric utilities as well as vehicle innovation. Advances in communication and software are creating remarkable opportunities for coordination between vehicles and transportation systems as well as with utilities. The transportation and energy systems of the future can be clean, green and smart-- and increasingly oil free.

In May, the president ordered a technical assessment on incentives and reforms needed to encourage new and emerging technologies and the "infrastructure for advanced vehicle technologies." Those assessments should be used to direct the priorities for spending the $50 billion in new transportation infrastructure.

Thanks to grants from the U.S. Department of Energy working with the Idaho National Laboratory, by this time next year, charging infrastructure for advanced electric vehicles will be in place in major metropolitan areas along the Interstate 5 corridor. The president's new transportation plan should build on this West Coast work to help end our oil dependence. That would be a good start to ensure that OPEC won't be around to celebrate another 50 years at our expense.

Steve Marshall, a senior fellow at the Cascadia Center for Regional Development, is working with the West Coast Corridor Coalition on a conference this week at Stanford University called "Climate Policy and Transportation: Building a Clean, Green and Smart West Coast Corridor" (
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

How Much Electricity (or at least other energy input) is used to run gasoline cars?

NOBODY knows this answer. Many have tried. And those who have tried all end up in the same ballpark, at least. I'm confident in saying that a modern EV can travel 20-30 miles on the energy required to create one gallon of gasoline. But the reason we can't answer the big question of "how much electricity" is needed - is because the energy inputs into making gasoline come from a wide variety of sources. The fact remains that quite a bit of energy is used, and that energy COULD be used to do something more useful than make gasoline. So anyway... here's some intesting data and links:

Nissan officially declared that it takes 7.5 kwh to refine one gallon of gasoline - enough to drive a real EV about 30 miles without even using that gasoline. (Nissan no longer advertises this number and offers no reason)

Electricity to help us get off foreign oil (1 minute video clip)

Using DOE numbers, they come up with 6 kWh of "energh":

How much electricity does it take to make a gallon of gasoline? We don't know - but here's one stab at it. Ballpark figures only, and NOT a supportable conclusion. The most important message to take away is that it is not trivial! This part of gasoline is ignored by the folks who are concerned about the big impact on our electrical grid if we were to suddenly shift all transportation from gasoline to electricity.

To extract one gallon of gasoline (or equivalent distillate): 9.66 kWh (maybe not all in the form of electricity*)
To refine that gallon: 2.73 kWh additional energy (maybe not all in the form of electricity*)
Total: 12.39 kWh per gallon.

*Roughly one-third of the energy content of a gallon of gasoline produced from California wells is input from natural gas. Less than 2/3's is net energy (probably a lot less!).

So I can get 24 miles in my ICE on a gallon of gasoline, or I can get 41 miles (at 300wh/mile) in my RAV4EV just using the energy to refine that gallon. Alternatively - energy use (electricity and natural gas) state wide goes DOWN if a mile in a RAV4EV is substituted for a mile in an ICE!

Assumptions (sorry, lots of apples and oranges comparisons here):

Data from these sources:
petro industry numbers Word HTML

1. No adjustment for using data from different calendar years to make comparisons.
2. Energy content of natural gas and electricity assumed equivalent and just added. No adjustment for energy lost in burning natural gas to produce electricity (or vice versa).
3. 1 therm = 29.3 kWh.
4. 70% distillation efficiency (1 barrel = 38.5 gallons of refined product).
5. Data for California wells and refineries only.
6. Does not include energy costs of transportation, storage, and distribution.
7. All refined products assumed to be equal in energy cost of refining.
(Definitely not true if low grade crude used to produce gasoline.)


More on the energy use to make gasoline:

1. one gallon of gasoline contains 35 kWh of energy, and...

2. it takes 10 kWh of energy just from the electric grid and from the use
of natural gas alone to extract sufficient crude from California wells to
produce that gallon. Still searching for the information on the contribution
from other energy sources such as previously refined distillates.

3. it takes an additional 3 kWh of energy just from the electric grid and
the use of natural gas alone to refine that amount of crude to produce a
gallon of gasoline. Still searching for the information on the contribution
from other energy sources such as previously refined distillates.

4. it takes an additional (but presently unknown to me) amount of energy
from the electric grid, the use of natural gas, and other energy sources
including previously refined distillates to store, transport and distribute
the crude oil to the refinery and then the refined gasoline to the consumer.

5. All together, it looks like as much as 50% of the energy content of
refined distillates such as gasoline is required from other current sources
in order to get it to the consumer.


And still more from poster omgwtfbyobbq :

-CA extracts ~300 million bpy (second table), and in order to do this needs about
3,846 million KWh of electricity 2,910 million Therms of gas.

-CA refines ~15 billion gallons of gasoline per year, and this requires roughly
7,266 million KWh of electricity and 1,061 million Therms of natural gas.

Note these as well
-1 therm=29.3KWh
-There are about 20 gallons of gasoline in a barrel of oil.
-NG combined cycle power plant efficiency is about 55%.
-Electricity transmission efficiency is about 93%.
-Charger/controller/motor efficiency is about 72%.
-Gasoline production and distribution efficiency is about 83%.
-Average ICE vehicle efficiency is about 20%.

Since we extract 300mbpy, and get about 20 gallons of gasoline per barrel, we extract what will be 6bbpy. In order to do this we used 3.846 billion kwh of electricity and 85.263 billion KWh of NG. If we had used this electricity and NG for electricity, we would have roughly 85.263(.55)(.93)=43.612 + 3.846=47.458 billion KWh of electricity at consumer's homes. Which is about 7.91KWh/gallon of gas, just for extraction.

Refining takes up some too. During this we use up 31.087 billion KWh of NG, and 7.266 billion KWh of electricity, which could be 23.167 billion KWh of electricity at the consumer's home, or 1.55KWh/gallon of gasoline refined.

Combined this gives us 9.46KWh/gallon if we only look at gasoline, or 4.73KWh/gallon if we look at the entire barrel. Since gasoline takes more than most distillates, it probably uses roughly 6kwh per gallon in terms of energy that could be electricity going to CA homes.

With an EV average of 250wh/mile, we could go about 280 billion miles just on the industrial inputs of electricity and NG needed to get gasoline. Or, we could go 300 billion miles on gasoline in vehicles that average 20mpg. Combined efficiency for EVs is around 37%, while ICEs are around 17%. We dump more than twice as much carbon into the atmosphere and god knows what kind of pollutants, compared to NG which is pretty clean in terms of electricity generation, and electricity already being used. I'm surprised we're not using the gasoline to grow ethanol from pine trees...


Yes, and more...
From the California Energy Department website, we find:

  1. 3,700GWh or 1.5% of all electricity consumed by the state is used for Petroleum EXTRACTION
  2. 7,266 million KWh of electricity for Petroleum REFINING (1997)- 15% of California's manufacturing sector (if 3700 is 1.5, then 7266=2.9%. 1.5+2.9=4.4%. About 1/20th of all Electric usage.
  3. 1,061 million Therms of natural gas Petroleum REFINING (1997)- 28% of California's manufacturing sector 48% of energy from Petroleum is used in the transportation sector.

From this we can conclude:

  1. The electricity used in CA to extract and refine oil for gasoline (11,000 Gwh) would be enough to power 4 million full function electric cars.
    11000 million kWh / 0.25 kWh per mile /11000 miles per year per car = 4 million E cars
  2. Adding the natural gas used to refine oil for gasoline, 1,061 million therms, we could get enough power to run another 5 million electric cars
  3. 1061 million therms * 30 Kwh per therm / 50% combined cycle power plant efficiency / 11000 miles per year per car / 0.25 miles per kWh = 5 million electric cars

Adding in the energy used to produce and ship imported oil (over 50% of it is imported now), plus the energy used to distribute and retail oil...


From Earl:

Many numbers may be found at

It says for example that in 2006 that U.S.refineries used 39,353 GWh (39,353,000,000 kWh).

you will find that they produced 45.8% "Finished Motor Gasoline" in 2006. That means 18,024 GWh for gasoline (18 TWh)

you will find output was 1,965,341,000 barrels, or 82.544 billion gallons. (Note 140 billion gallons were consumed in the U.S., so I suppose the others were imported. Someone ambitious should check this. One could scale to guess at the electricity used by the imports, if you wanted.)

Dividing one gets 218.4 Wh/gallon. Thus in a RAV4-EV, one could go 0.72 miles on the electricity used to produce a gallon of gasoline (using 302 Wh/mi). In a Tesla, it would be about 0.87 miles.

Put another way, the 18 TWh of electricity used by refineries could power RAV4-EVs 59.7 billion miles. Since Vehicle Miles Traveled was 2.7 trillion miles in 2005 (2006 not yet posted) this represents 2.2% of U.S. passenger vehicle travel.

However, concentrating on the electricity input to gasoline is perhaps the wrong question to be asking. The natural gas input is much larger. At the first page above, you'll find 697,593,000,000 ft^3 used by refineries. gives the energy content (LHV) of natural gas at 930 Btu/ft^3. 697593e6*45.8%*930/3.4121416*60% = 52.2 TWh of electricity (at a NGCC power plant with an LHV efficiency of 60%, e.g. the GE H-System). That is almost three times the energy of the electricity bought by the refineries.

GE H-system efficiency is cited here:

If one combines the 18 TWh and the 52 TWh, then one has enough electricity to power to drive 233 billion miles, or 8.6% of U.S. passenger vehicle travel.

I won't try to add in the other energy inputs to refineries at, but you're welcome to give it a try if you are ambitious.


Reverend Gadget (Greg Abbott) claims that 12.5kWhr is required to process/refine each gallon of gasoline. You can drive an EV ~50miles on 12.5kwhrs which is 40% further than you can drive an ICE car on that one gallon of gasoline. So moving to EVs actually will REDUCE the amount of electricity consumed overall. We know that the gasoline refineries are the #1 consumer of electricity.

What other resources are needed to make gasoline?

Well, it turns out that a whole lot of water is needed. About 44 gallons. For each gallon of gasoline: Source.

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