You may have read about the cap and trade legislation which the US House of Representatives passed in June of this year. The US Senate is due to begin work on their version of this legislation in September. This legislation has already been controversial, with opponents labeling it as a leftist plot to seize the U.S. and world financial system, or as legislation that will increase taxes or send jobs overseas.
If this legislative initiative fails, the Environmental Protection Agency has signaled that they are ready to declare CO2 a dangerous pollutant , which will trigger a host of Federal regulations to limit the amount of CO2 generated in the United States under existing legislation, the Clean Air Act of 1990 . While nearly everyone agrees that new legislation would be much preferred to existing legislation, we are certain to face limits of one kind or the other on CO2 pollution in the near future.
This reality is certain to mean much higher costs for the American consumer. Electric bills may increase $10 to $25 a month or more. Gasoline will be more expensive, with some analysts predicting $4 to $5 a gallon prices within 10 years. Food costs will rise, along with any other products that are dependent upon energy or oil. Industries may be relocated to countries that produce less CO2, enabling them to compete more profitably.
One of the major culprits in CO2 pollution is the automobile. You may be surprised to learn how much pollution is produced when you drive your car. For every gallon of gasoline you burn in your car, you remove 21 pounds of breathable Oxygen from the atmosphere, as well as adding 20 pounds of CO2, or Carbon Dioxide to the atmosphere. This might seem unlikely or improbable, but it is a fact.
How is this possible?
A gallon of gasoline weighs 6.3 pounds and is comprised of 87% Carbon (C) and 13% Hydrogen (H). When you burn gasoline, a chemical reaction occurs, using Oxygen from the atmosphere. The Hydrogen and the Carbon separate, then recombine with Oxygen from the atmosphere to form H2O, or water, and CO2, or Carbon dioxide.
How is 20 pounds of carbon Dioxide produced?:
A CO2 molecule has one carbon atom (atomic weight 12) and two oxygen atoms (atomic weight of 16 each). A carbon atom has a weight of 12, and each oxygen atom has a weight of 16, giving each single molecule of CO2 an atomic weight of 44 (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen).
Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a gallon of gasoline, the weight of the carbon in the gasoline is multiplied by 44/12 or 3.7.
Since gasoline is about 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gasoline weighs 5.5 pounds (6.3 lbs. x .87).
We can then multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, which equals 20 pounds of CO2.
Now lets see how much H2O or water is produced:
A H2O molecule has two Hydrogen atoms (atomic weight 1) and one oxygen atom (atomic weight of 16 each). Each Hydrogen atom has a weight of 1, and the oxygen atom has a weight of 16, giving each single molecule of H20 an atomic weight of 18 (2 from Hydrogen and 16 from oxygen).
Therefore, to calculate the amount of H2O produced from a gallon of gasoline, the weight of the Hydrogen in the gasoline is multiplied by 18/2 or 9.
Since gasoline is about 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight, the Hydrogen in a gallon of gasoline weighs 0.8 pounds (6.3 lbs. x .13). We can then multiply the weight of the Hydrogen (0.8 pounds) by 9, which equals 7 pounds of H2O or water and water vapor.
How is 21 pounds of Oxygen removed from the atmosphere?:
The combined total weight of the CO2 and the H2O produced by the burning of one gallon of gasoline is 27 pounds. Since we started with one gallon of gas that weighed 6.3 pounds, the amount of Oxygen converted to H2O or CO2 by burning the gasoline is (27-6.3) or 21.7 pounds.
This 21 pounds of breathable Oxygen was removed from the atmosphere by passing through your car's air filter, through the engine, and out the tailpipe as H2O and CO2.
When you multiply that 21 pounds by the United States daily consumption of gasoline (378 million gallons), the result is 7.9 Billion pounds of Oxygen that we are removing from the atmosphere and converting into 7.5 Billion pounds of CO2 and more than 378 Million pounds of water or water vapor each and every day of the year.
On a yearly basis, the total gasoline related CO2 output of the United States is 2.8 Trillion pounds.
This CO2 stays in our atmosphere until it is absorbed by the oceans or broken down by plants through the process of photosynthesis. Also, it seems reasonable that this CO2 would remain at or near ground level, since the CO2 molecule would be heavier than molecules of H2O, or Oxygen or Hydrogen alone. This is a contributing factor in the huge increase in respiratory illness and childhood asthma the US has experienced over the last 30 years.
Change the climate and change the future
Climate legislation is important. We must find ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuel and decrease CO2 pollution. The recent cash for Clunkers legislation was part of the solution. While initially attached as an amendment to HR 2454, the amendment was moved to the stimulus bill and then signed into law. While stimulating the economy through the sale of new cars, it also traded less fuel efficient cars for more efficient ones, thereby theoretically reducing the amount of CO2 pollution produced. We must continue to reduce the amount of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere, and by doing that, we will increase the amount of available Oxygen. Many coutries around the world are looking to the United States to provide leadership in climate legislation before they draft legislation of their own.
As a nation, we must pass climate legislation this year and partner with the rest of the world at The United Nations Climate Change Conference to reduce pollution.
We will all breath a little easier if we can achieve this goal.
This article based in part on: Environmental Protection Agency frequent questions
© 2008 by blinkin. This material may not be reproduced, rebroadcast, or distributed. Photos are copyright of their authors