The Environmental Ramifications Produced by Gasoline — A Mini-Report

143 billion gallons of motor gasoline were used by Americans alone as of 2018 (EIA, 2019). Gasoline is created through the fractional distillation of crude oil, and is a hugely popular fuel, especially when it comes to powering automobiles.

Gasoline in its incipient form, crude oil, is mined by digging deep into the ground and pumping the oil back to the surface. A lot of times, this means digging deep into the ocean floor. Creating these large cavities can be detrimental to any pre-existing marine biodiversity, primarily because of habitat destruction. Another threat to marine life when mining crude oil is the dangerous oil spills/leakages that can sporadically occur. During the extraction process, oil can leak out of pipelines into the water, and can poison and kill marine life if it makes contact with them. An example of this could be the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill which happened in the Gulf of Mexico, during which about 6,165 sea turtles, 25,900 marine mammals, and a vast number of fish were killed (The Devastating Wildlife Effects of Deepwater Horizon — and the Next Catastrophic Oil Spill, n.d.). However, with an adequate amount of planning, purposeful habitat restoration programs could be a possible solution to the damage that extracting crude oil can cause to marine life. An EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) is one way to evaluate the potential impacts of drilling in a specific area, and whether or not drilling should be conducted in that area, or if the impact on biodiversity is non-reversible. Professor Roberto Danovaro, president of the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn in Naples, Italy, has concluded that with the re-introduction of central species, eco-systems have been shown to recover from any damage (Collins, 2019).

In addition, the refinement of crude oil requires energy to power the facilities that are responsible for helping with refinement processes. Depending on the scale of production, huge quantities of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere from these machines, excluding the additional CO2 emitted during the combustion of the final product itself!. The carbon dioxide that is produced is harmful to the environment because of its strong influence towards intensifying climate change. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, and more of it in the atmosphere means that the greenhouse effect; the phenomenon responsible for helping the Earth maintain a survivable temperature for all life, is becoming stronger, and consequently global temperatures are rising. One way of mitigating this is by using something called Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). CCS is a process in which carbon emissions are captured and stored, and then pushed back deep into the earth permanently. The purpose of this procedure is to avoid allowing the CO2 to enter the atmosphere again, which would only help contribute towards climate change. Using CCS, the emissions from a petroleum refinery can be greatly reduced.

Gasoline in its final form can be used for a few different purposes, although the majority of the time it is produced to power automobiles. Energy is gained when gasoline goes through a process called combustion, where it chemically reacts with oxygen to produce heat. This can be seen in the chemical equation for gasoline (let it be noted that Octane was selected for this particular equation):

2 C8H18 + 25 O2 — > 16 CO2 +18 H2O + △H.

where C8H18 represents gasoline (specifically, octane), and delta H (△H) represents the energy, in the form of heat, produced by the fuel. In automobiles, the combustion of gasoline takes place in the internal combustion engine. The combustion of gasoline as performed by an automobile causes mass quantities of harmful chemicals to be released into the atmosphere, which are then inhaled by humans during respiration. Some of these harmful chemicals include : carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and unburned hydrocarbons (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2019). This also includes sulfur oxides. Smog is the term coined for visible air pollution, and is created when automobile emissions react with sunlight and heat. This is detrimental towards the environment because it can harm any organism that is exposed to it. One example is how this pollution severely affects the health of birds (Air pollution in the UK affects British wildlife — Finding Nature UK, 2018). One way of reducing the smog that is produced by automobiles is by designing vehicles that are more fuel-efficient and are capable of reducing their emissions, which would subsequently reduce the overall quantity of smog produced.

Works Cited (APA) :

Air pollution in the UK affects British wildlife — Finding Nature UK. (2018, June 30). Retrieved from https://findingnature.co.uk/air-pollution-affects-birds/.

Collins, C. (2019, March 25). Biodiversity loss in the oceans can be reversed through habitat restoration. Retrieved from https://horizon-magazine.eu/article/biodiversity-loss-oceans-can-be-reversed-through-habitat-restoration.html.

Gasoline and the environment. (2019, October 4). Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/gasoline/use-of-gasoline.php.

The Devastating Wildlife Effects of Deepwater Horizon — and the Next Catastrophic Oil Spill. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/public_lands/energy/dirty_energy_development/oil_and_gas/gulf_oil_spill/a_deadly_toll.html.

U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). (2019, June 24). Use of gasoline — Gasoline explained. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/gasoline/use-of-gasoline.php