Fuel and Pollution:
The Gas Station & Auto Service
Collectibles Web Site
Gasoline ( petroleum
history sites )
- Automobiles run on gasoline, a relatively
of crude oil. Diesel fuel (which is essentially the same as
heating oil) is a relatively heavy fraction.
- The heaviest fractions (bitumen or rock
used for centuries for waterproofing and after 1800 for roads.
was used in lamps from the 1850s.
- In 1859 an American industrialist, George
a deliberate search for oil. They chose a site in Pennsylvania,
through 70 feet of bedrock, and used the oil from the well for
gas, lubricating oil, and an excellent lamp oil. Within 15
years production in the Pennsylvania field had reached 10 million (360
lb) barrels a year.
- John D. Rockefeller established Standard
By building a pipeline system he soon gained control of 90% of a
industry and became for a while the richest person in the world.
Beginnings of the Petroleum Industry
early oil refinery
- The oil was distilled to separate the
gasoline (1.5 to 15 percent, depending on the crude), which at first
a nuisance because it was highly inflammable and had no use, then
and then lubricating oil. For a good explanation of
- With the popularity of the automobile
was in greater demand than the other fractions, and cracking was
by William Burton at Standard Oil in 1913. Heavier fractions are
converted into lighter ones by subjecting them to high temperature and
pressure to break down the chains of carbon atoms into shorter
Industrial research labs competed to find more
efficient ways of doing this, most important catalytic
a platinum catalyst in the 1920s.
- problem of engine knock arose just before
tried to widen the cut. Solved by the 1922 introduction of
lead as a fueld additive. To prevent lead from fouling the engine
ethylene dibromide was added to react with the lead residue and make
it was funneled out of the exhaust system into the atmosphere (at the
the only questions raised were about hazards of the lead to refinery
- leaded gasoline was phased out starting in
the lead that got into the atmosphere and fell into the soil in heavily
traveled areas was identified as a significant cause of lead poisoning.
Coming End of Cheap Oil
- 1972 publication of The Limits to Growth
Club of Rome--an informal organiation of scholars, businessmen and
servants. Predicted that we were going to run out of most
in the next 50 years or so--20 years for petroleum. (For a pessimistic
current report see The
Global Oil Crisis )
- what happens then?
crisis of 1973--caused by Arab oil embargo. Long lines and
of price. Showed US dependence on cheap imported oil.
- conservation--small cars and requirements
for greater efficiency
- energy policy, particularly subsidies for
- higher price and deregulation led to more
and drilling more difficult areas, such as deeper at sea.
- OPEC political troubles have forced those
a higher rate of production
- Oil price increases
of 2004-2005 (chart)
- increased demand, particularly from China
(39% increase from 2003 to 2004)
- lack of sufficient refining capability
- decline in the value of the US dollar
- uncertainties (ie. Iraq war)
- much of the increase happened before
Hurricane Katrina shut Gulf of Mexico oil rigs, pipelines, and
- oil companies have made record
profits from increasing prices
what are our choices?
- fossil fuels--petroleum, coal, and natural
in immense quantities of carbon dioxide (causing global
warming), carbon monoxide, sulfur (causing acid rain), and oxides of
nitrogen into the
billion tons of exhaust in 1988
- Carbon dioxide in atmosphere has increased
this page written and copyright © Pamela
last updated 11/14/05