In California, about one-half of ALL the energy we use goes into transportation – cars, planes, trucks, motorcycles, trains, buses. And of all the oil we use in the state about three-quarters of all it goes into making gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles.
As we learned in Chapter 8, oil goes through a refinery where it is made into many different products. Some of them are used for transportation: aviation fuel, gasoline and diesel fuel. From the refinery and larger storage tank farms, transportation fuels are usually trucked to service stations in tanker trucks. These trucks can hold 10,000 gallons in each tank. The tanker trucks deliver the gasoline to the services stations.
At service stations, the two grades of gasoline, regular and premium, are kept in separate underground storage tanks. When you pump the gasoline into your car, you are pumping it from those tanks below ground. Mid-grade gasoline is a combination of the two types. Other vehicles, such as trucks and some cars use diesel fuel, which is also made from oil. It is brought to service stations the same way.
California has more than 26 million vehicles on its roads. All the vehicles in the state used 14.4 billion gallons of gasoline in 2001. That's more gasoline that all other countries except for the United States and the former Soviet Union. This makes California the third-largest user of gasoline in the world!
Fourteen billion gallons of gasoline is enough to fill a line of 10,000 gallon tanker trucks stretched bumper to bumper from San Francisco to San Diego, back to San Francisco, and then part of the way to Sacramento!
Burning gasoline, however, creates air pollution. That's why oil companies are creating newer types of gasoline that are cleaner than the kind we use today. Beginning in 1996, all the gasoline sold in California will be this newer, cleaner type called "reformulated gasoline." The main ingredient in that gas, however, MTBE was found to hurt water supplies if it leaked. So, that additive is being removed by 2005.
Another concern about using oil for transportation is that a lot of oil used comes form the Middle East. This makes the U.S. very vulnerable if there is political unrest. During the 1970s, Americans saw long lines at the gas pumps because oil from the Middle East was turned off by the Oil Producing Exporting Countries - OPEC. And we're in in worse shape in 2002 because we're importing more and more oil form the Middle East than ever before.
Because of concerns about air pollution and petroleum-dependence, new clean-burning fuels made from fuels other than oil are being introduced. These fuels include methanol, ethanol, natural gas, propane and even electricity. The car on the right uses methanol, the same fuel used in Indianapolis Speedway race cars.
All these fuels are called alternative fuels because they are an alternative to gasoline and diesel. Cars and trucks that use them are called Alternative Fuel Vehicles or AFVs.
Right now, there are only a small number of cars and trucks that are running on fuels other than gasoline and diesel. Energy officials hope, however, that one-quarter of all the vehicles will run on alternative fuels by the year 2025.
For more on alternative fuel vehicles, we have a whole section on Energy Quest. Go to our Transportation Section.
Chapter 19 will talk about Saving Energy and Energy Efficiency.