A 10% Drop in Gasoline Use Would do a lot of Good

On many occasions on this site I’ve stated that just slightly decreasing the amount of gasoline you use will add up over time and really make a difference, for both your finances and the environment. While it certainly is pretty cliche, it’s nothing but the truth. While the idea behind this post is fairly obvious, the actual benefits implementing the idea might not be.

For example, if Americans were to decrease gasoline consumption by just 10% – which can be done any number of ways: by being a better driver, keeping up on car maintenance, trading in a gas guzzler for a fuel sipper – we could save billions of dollars per year and keep massive amounts of greenhouse gases out of the environment.

Let me explain a little further:

On average, Americans consume about 386 million gallons of gasoline each day. Over the course of a year, that adds up to just under 141 billion gallons of gas. That’s a lot of gas, and is by far the highest number of any country in the world.

If people were able to reduce their fuel consumption by just 10% – which, again, is very easy to do – we would save 14.1 billion gallons of gas each year.

With the current national average price for a gallon of gas sitting at $3.78, this reduction in gasoline usage would equal a total dollar savings of over $53 billion. To put that in perspective, this total is about 1/3rd of the Government stimulus package that was supposed to help jump start the economy.

In addition to the massive amounts of money we would save, there would also be a significant reduction in the amount of damage we do to the environment.

Each gallon of gasoline that we burn releases roughly 20 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is widely believed to be one of the main contributors to global warming and the “greenhouse effect.”

By reducing fuel consumption by just 10%, we would keep 2.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. While I have no idea whether or not this would make a significant dent in global warming, it certainly can’t hurt. (I’m sure someone will be kind enough to leave a comment telling everyone what effects a reduction of this magnitude would have on the environment. Hint, hint.)

So, back to the original premise, if Americans were able to reduce their gasoline usage by only 10%, we would save billions of dollars and help save the environment. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

Thanks to higher gas prices, Americans have already begun to drastically reduce the amount of miles they drive, and have started to trade in their gas guzzlers for more cars with better fuel economy. Hopefully, that means we’re well on our way to getting to this 10% reduction – if not more.


  1. Great post. I think the <a href=”http://www.diamondcutlife.org/high-energy-prices-good/”rising fuel costs have been a good thing, as it seems to be the only way to get the majority of Americans to change their habits. What folks don’t realize is that in addition to saving money, reducing fuel consumption can lead to better health & happiness. More on that at http://www.diamondcutlife.org/the-very-best-diet/

  2. On the other hand: What would happen if we had 10% fewer kids?

    Putting skin creme on a bump on your leg doesn’t work when the real problem is a broken bone poking up from underneath.

    You’re trying to solve the big problem by treating a small symptom.

    Conservation can’t work if population continues to soar.

  3. It’s misleading to say that a gallon of gasoline releases 20 pounds of CO2 into the air. It actually releases only about 5 pounds of carbon into the air which then combines with two oxygen molecules which more than double it’s weight. Regardless it’s still a misleading fact. You’re not releasing 20 pounds of CO2, however you are creating about 18 pounds by releasing 5 pounds of carbon.

    • kevin mazur says

      Hi Jay,

      I like your directness in this regard and thought maybe you have an answer for me? As opposed to asking the question “what emissions would be saved by a 10% drop in fuel consumption” could you help with the answer if the question was “what would the reduction in emissions released be if we had 10% less vehicles operating on the road in a given day/year?” I’m on a project that needs this answered. You sound well qualified. Please help

  4. A gallon of gasoline weighs roughly 8.5 lbs. It cannot, without violating the laws of physics, release “20 lbs. of carbon dioxide” into anything, including the atmosphere.

    And due to the nature of our use of gasoline, it probably only releases something like 40% (at the most) of its mass as matter. The other 60% is converted into energy in that process called “combustion”.

    Quit spreading myths to make your arguments. You don’t need them. You have enough good points without them.

  5. Good tips; I’ve probably reduced my gas usage about 25% since the recession started. Now I don’t really go anywhere besides work and the grocery.

  6. Easiest thing everyone can do is drive in the slow lane on highways and keep your RPMs under 3000.

    With my car, 98 Acura, thats means 600km/tank, compared to 450km/tank when I drive fast.

    Thats 33% more km for same amount of gas.

    Its easy

  7. Sorry – I couldn’t care less about my ‘carbon footprint’. As soon as gas got about $3.00 per gallon, I found an old 95 Geo Metro with a standard tranny in excellent shape. I get about 48Mpg on normal driving. My tires aren’t flat, and I only drive to work and back – and to get groceries to eat. Gas prices are killing me – and I can’t cut back any more. There is no public transportation where I live, and I can’t afford to live right next to work or anywhere near the city. Obama lost my vote the very moment he suggested the ‘properly inflate your tires’… does he honestly think a majority of Americans are stupid enough not to know that? Lets see, I can remember being told that all the way back in elementary school back in the 80’s! And I didn’t even drive!!!!! We need REAL answers, and thus I come to the conclusion based on another thing I learned in school called ‘law of supply and demand’. Drill now, increase supply, prices go lower!!! I know care if it takes 3 years or 10, because it will take just as long to get ‘alternative’ fuels to be viable, and when that day comes I still will not be able to afford a NEW car – so it won’t help me!!! But lower gas prices will!!!

  8. Sorry – “I know care” should have been “I don’t care”, I was in a hurry.

  9. Another Realist says

    10% fewer kids? The US population would already be shrinking if it weren’t for immigration. Your reasoning stands true for the developing world, but there isn’t a single industrialized nation (large hydrocarbon consumer) that has a growing population.

  10. I think our nation is starting to realize how dangerous relying on oil is now. With the $3-4 per gallon gasoline, it’s hard for many middle class people to make it to work and back.

  11. A smarter realist says

    Hey realist, If you’re going to talk physics, know what you’re talking about. “Matter” is not “converted” into “energy” except in nuclear reactions. 8 lbs of fuel (weight vs. mass is another discussion) creates 8lbs of exhaust PLUS the mass of the air that it used in the combustion process. Typical Air:Fuel ratio is about 13:1. Much of it is in carbon MONOXIDE that oxidizes in the atmosphere to create carbon DIOXIDE. (I question the 20 pound figure as well, but I don’t know enough to argue it.)

  12. >>A gallon of gasoline weighs roughly 8.5 lbs. It cannot, without violating the laws of physics, release “20 lbs. of carbon dioxide” into anything, including the atmosphere.
    And due to the nature of our use of gasoline, it probably only releases something like 40% (at the most) of its mass as matter. The other 60% is converted into energy in that process called “combustion”.<<

    Actually, 100% is matter. Matter cannot be created or destroyed. Destroying matter violates the laws of physics as well as creating it does. Energy is released, but all the matter still exists. Gasoline combustion looks something like this: 2C8H18 + 25O2 = 16CO2 + 18H2O, so 16 carbon atoms each bind with 2 oxygen atoms, meaning that 5 pounds of carbon ends up being about 18-20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

  13. so, support proper tire pressure which saves 2%-3%, And spend 5 minutes every time you start up your car to make sure the tires are inflated properly, and bring a portable tire pump and really long extension cord to inflate them….

    Um – where does the other 7% come from. the tooth fairy?

  14. I already use 10% less gas. Stupid article!

  15. “A Realist”, you need to rethink what you have stated.
    For starters, a gallon of water may weight in at near 8.5 Lbs, however gasoline is signifigantly less dense, and has a weight per gallon of about 6 Lbs.
    In your comment , you did not consider that gas requires oxygen to combust. When fuel is combusted in an engine, it is mixed with oxygen to do so. Oxygen has mass, and therefore the burning of 1 gallon of gas, plus all the oxygen required for it to combust will lead to a gaseous yield greater than just 6 pounds (a lot more, actually). As you can hopefully see, burning 6 Lbs. of gas to create about 20Lbs of emissions does not violate any physical law.
    Furthermore, combustion is a chemical reaction, and no mass is lost in the transition from liquid fuel to heat and emissions, because combustion is the release of potential chemical energy (NOT the transition from mass to energy).

  16. While reducing overall consumption is important one must look at the larger ‘carbon footprint’ also when deciding to purchase a new low sipper car.

    The debate on this would investigate whether it is better to keep the older 20mpg car running (with or without reduced trips) or purchase a newer car of say 40mpg that has caused the consumption of ‘x’ amount of resources to produce. What then happens to the old car (resold on the market or scrapped for recycling)?

  17. “A smarter realist” – that was way too funny. You obviously have no understanding of General Relativity. I’ll see if it may not be possible for me to explain it in very simple terms… matter is never created or destroyed – only converted into one form or another. One of those ‘forms’ can be pure energy – as shown by the famous E=mc2 formula.

    I myself have never understood this argument that a gallon of gas, once burned in a motor is converted into a larger amount of co2. I think this is something that was originally stated differently. Perhaps a gallon of gas can produce a certain ‘volume’ of co2 that is much greater than the original, because co2 is a gas and gasoline is a liquid. That would make sense. But the ‘weight’ or ‘mass’ argument is simply not possible.

    Tyler L. – I would say your missing a little bit here as well. If none of the ‘gasoline’ is converted to energy – then where did the energy come from? The ‘combustion release of chemical energy’ as you put it, which came from what? A mixture of fire (spark plug) fuel source (gasoline) oxygen and compression. A small percentage of that gasoline is converted to energy – or else there would be no propulsion. This is very simple stuff, just take a physics class.

    Here is a more simple view… if matter is only converted to energy in a nuclear reaction, then we all must be very radioactive, since we ALL convert matter to energy every day – we eat to sustain our very lives, the very energy that keeps our hearts pumping and (for some of us) our brains thinking. If you think I’m wrong, prove it – stop eating from now on and let me know how that works out for ya! lol

  18. Regressive Lobbiest says

    Regressive movement FTW. Its a Maddox reference. If you have problems with gas prices, there is one thing i suggest you do. Deal with it! Its your choice to drive places, even when I lived in Kansas where you “have no choice but to drive” there are these marvelous things called bicycles and if you want some think motor power get a moped they will save gas big time. Got kids and need a car, I don’t feel bad, it was your choice to have kids and if you have problems with finances it was your choice, you shouldn’t have had them.

    Here is how we solve the a population problem, although it is not economically viable to reduce the population because we need taxes from young people to pay for the old.
    Step one, every person under the age of 18 who carries a child to term, sterilize them after giving birth. They have there kid to replace them they don’t need more. My cousin had her first kid when she was 16, now she has 4 kids, and she certainly isn’t doing any better financially by having them. Rich people who can afford kids don’t have kids and poor people who end up being government leeches have tons.
    Step two, old people, I don’t care what you do with them but there living to damn long.
    I can’t afford to fix my messed up knee and I’m in my 20’s but old people can afford stuff to make them live to 100. Stop spending money on making them live longer than they need to and start spending it on something, productive, unlike old people.

  19. Yes, chrispc88, that’s the solution right there. Drill more oil, so we can keep using gasoline. You are correct that drilling would lower gas prices, but how low would they go, and for how long would they stay low? If the answer is, “long enough to make alternative fuels completely viable,” then I’d say go ahead and drill.

    However, I believe the primary motivation at this time for researching alternative fuel is the high price of gas. If gas becomes affordable again, that motivation diminishes. A very likely series of events is this:

    we drill more oil, gas prices drop, we stop working on alternative fuels…we start depleting the “new oil”, gas prices rise, we resume work on alternative fuels…sounds like where we are right now!

    chrispc88, you learned to inflate your tires long ago, as did I, but you seriously give your fellow humans too much credit if you think everyone knows, and follows, that advice.

  20. Well, maybe things are different in other parts of the country. I know that here in the 4 states, I don’t see too many people driving around on flat tires. I also see service stations that are busy with customers constantly getting tune ups – including tire inflation. I see those people who can not afford to have someone else do this work for them, doing it themselves in their garage or in a shade tree. Take a drive on down to Joplin Mo, or even Diamond Mo, and just take a look around. It’s obvious the vast majority of vehicles are in very good shape and well maintained. Part of that reason may be that our inspections do not have anything to do with emissions – but instead focus on the overall condition of the vehicle, for example tire tread, brake pad and rotor condition. People must maintain many aspects of their car (not just their engine) to pass an inspection in Missouri.

    I only mention this because I did live in Nashville for a short while, in-which their inspection was only an emissions test and any vehicle over 25 years old was exempt. So, one could easily see 2 classes of cars. For the most part everyone had fairly new (less than 10 years old) cars that were in good shape. But those who had older cars, those cars weren’t fit to be driven at all! With few exceptions of-course. So I sometimes wonder who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to make an emissions test, all that is needed to pass an inspection… and my answer seems to always come up as being an environmentalist who can’t see anything past co2 numbers.

    Let me ask a serious question. Do you REALLY think we can rid ourselves of the use of oil, within say the next 30 years? Now think about this, it’s not just the family truckster that uses oil. Big Rig trucks, Trains, planes, jets, they all use oil. If not for propulsion, then we use oil for other means, such as lubrication – and even in plastics. We will NEED oil to sustain our country. So – yes, I say again, drill now. Start using our own resources. There are MANY people who have even less money than I that are already in very serious trouble. I’d like you, Pheonix K, to go to one of those people’s homes for say 30 days, and tell them that their suffering is for the ‘greater good’ because it motivates others to invent a better means of transportation. I’d like to know how much sympathy someone who can’t afford to drive to work to feed his or her family, has for that argument.

  21. A lot of people are having trouble understanding how less than 10 pounds of gasoline produces nearly 20 pounds of CO2. Whether or not you dispute the exact weight of gas or amount of CO2 produced, it is entirely possible, even NECESSARY, that the products from combustion weigh more than the amount of FUEL you started with. Many people have already tried to explain that it’s because of the air that you use during combustion, but I’m gonna take it a little more in depth so it’s much more obvious.

    First, consider that gasoline is essentially carbon chains of varying length saturated with Hydrogen (ok, there’s more to it than that, but let’s not get too complicated). Hydrogen has an atomic weight of 1, Carbon has an atomic weight of 12, and Oxygen has an atomic weight of 16.

    In the most basic of scenarios, Carbon would bond with 4 Hydrogen atoms, creating Methane. Its weight would be (12 x 1 Carbon) + (1 x 4 Hydrogen) = 16 (note that that is the same as ONE Oxygen atom). On the other hand, Carbon could also bond with 2 Oxygen atoms. Its weight would be (12 x 1 Carbon) + (16 x 2 Oxygen) = 48. That is THREE TIMES as much as the first case.

    In reality, we don’t just burn methane. Instead, they are chains of Carbon atoms saturated with Hydrogen atoms. Because some Carbon atoms are bonded to 2 other Carbon atoms in the chain, they are only bond to 2 Hydrogen atoms, which means the weight of the molecule PER Carbon atom is LESS than 16 as in the scenario I outlined previously. That means every time a Carbon atom breaks from the chain to form CO2, the weight PER Carbon atom has the potential to triple!

    That’s why you can’t neglect the fact that combustion also requires air.

  22. Maybe inflating our tires would save 10% or more if you were driving around on rims but most of us don’t do that.

    All the oil in the ground now is going to come out someday. You may as well take it out now. If you wait until oil really is running out, it will come out but no one will care if it hurts the environment or not.

    Drill now and drill fast before other countries take it. Create jobs and all the taxes that come with it. Use it at home or export it, it doesn’t matter, either way our prices will come down.

    Oil has to come from somewhere. If we don’t drill, our oil will come from someone who will, like, oh, i don’t know, the Middle East, Russia, China, or some other terrorist country who doesn’t care about the environment at all.

    Drill, drill, drill.

  23. It seems to me that the number one gas mileage killer in the US is the actual WAY people drive. Every time I pull up to an intersection there are always at least four or five nitwits who punch it to 5000rpm in a 30mph zone. Why does nearly everyone drive like this? Are they trying to look tough? Trying to psych each other out? Whatever the reason, people who constantly accelerate like this are idiots. They’re wasting gas and hurting their engine and transmission.

    I think that gas consumption would drop a lot more than 10% if people would start driving conservatively.

  24. If you’re going to get pedantic, you need to be careful. You seem to be saying some mass from the gasoline would be converted to energy. . . . uh. . . . when we convert mass to energy, that’s called a nuclear reaction.

    E=mc^2 and all that.

  25. Lois Greenberg says

    “Um – where does the other 7% come from. the tooth fairy?”

    Freaking drive thru. If you stop all your drive thru and start walking in to the fast food restaurants, you will save at least another 3% and lose weight, thus making the car lighter, another 1%.

    So you have 3 % left. Hmm..drive less. period. Walk or take the bicycle. Just be smart. Driving a huge truck to go to movies, grocery shopping, for lunch or dinner, is not smart at all.

  26. Lois Greenberg says

    “chrispc88, you learned to inflate your tires long ago, as did I, but you seriously give your fellow humans too much credit if you think everyone knows, and follows, that advice.”

    That is right. Keep in mind that 50% of the US population vote for Bush the 2nd term. Interestingly Utah by 85%. So people are not as smart as what we think.

  27. Saving 10% of my gas is very achievable.

    I think that regular maintenance and some adjustments can help to save the 10% and also increase the security.

  28. Every gallon of gas not sold will cause taxes to go up due to drivers not purchasing and paying federal gas taxes.

    We’re all doomed anyway. 🙂

  29. “Obama lost my vote” – because “everyone knows” to keep their tires inflated? Well, here’s whole list of things of “everyone knows”

    1. We shouldn’t spend more than we earn.
    2. Eventually credit card bills have to be paid.
    3. Home prices can’t go up indefinitely.
    4. We should get regular physical checkups.
    5. We should floss after every meal.
    6. We should get regular oil changes.
    7. It’s a really bad idea to drink and drive.

    …and yet…

    (Also if a politician is going to lose your vote over one sentence – taken out of context – that is actually a good, albeit boring thing to do to increase your gas mileage – you must not have ever voted for anyone. And, now McCain can’t even recall how many houses he has. Wonder if he could tell us how many cars? 😉

  30. Have you look to see if you can ride share with someone? You wouldn’t believe the cost savings, it will reduce more than half with on e additional rider and more for additional riders. Just as an example, I was spending 340 dollars for gas and 85 dollars for parking a month. I now rideshare with 3 other people and my cost has been reduced to 1/4 of what I was spending.

  31. The biased News Media never tells the whole truth:

    PLANTS NEED CO 2 to survive. CO 2 is a real “fertilizer” for plants. Every Second tons of CO 2 is converted to organic plant material by PLANTS. That has occured since the dawn of plant life on Earth.

  32. Mike, you’re absolutely right. However, when taking into account that we’re producing more CO2 than ever, while destroying more and more of our plant life, doesn’t that seem like a recipe for disaster? It does to me.

  33. JONAS LUVER says

    I personally think that since the gas prices are going below 1.85 that the world is doomed! help us Obama!

  34. Anonymous says

    i agree

  35. An interesting view of the automotive industry. Where do you see the future of the industry, will it ever recover or will there be major casulties?

  36. Good idea but sadly too little too late

  37. Oil Prices continue to Surge because of pure greedy Elite an USA GOV’T because gas is on commodity an ever since SPECULATION IS KILLING THE ECONOMY its all made up an gas should only be 1.25 no higher than that. We have to take gas & oil off of WALL STREET. It should outlawed. The whole World should turn on the Greedy SOB’S. There will get there come upings if they don’t knock the price of gas down. They will make all business go out of Business. America gees do something or we will all be in the poor house. If gas goes to 10 dollars a gallon that will zero out my pay. I won’t be able to live off 46 cents an hours. These people in Big Oil are Megla Maniacs we have to stop them !


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