How to turn 6 pounds of gasoline into 20 pounds of carbon dioxide

Chemistry is coolThe curious (or suspicious-minded) among you have occasionally wondered about our claim that one gallon of gas turns into about twenty pounds of carbon dioxide exhaust. Your high school chemistry teacher would be very disappointed with you for even thinking the question, but there’s no judging here at TerraBlog. Let’s walk through the math.

Short answer:

When you burn something, it might feel like you’re turning it into lightness, air, nothingness. But what you’re really doing is simultaneously vaporizing it and chemically bonding it with oxygen in the air. It’s the weight of that oxygen that makes up the difference.

Carbon dioxide — or CO2 — is one carbon atom joined to two oxygen atoms. Carbon dioxide. Oxygen is a little bit heavier than carbon, so when you stick two oxygen atoms onto every available carbon atom, you end up with an amount of CO2 that is roughly triple the weight of the gasoline.

Long answer:

One gallon of gas weighs about 6.25 pounds. The weight fluctuates with temperature and octane, but this figure is good enough for government work.

Let’s pretend that gas is entirely made up of octane (more properly referred to as 2,2,4-trimethylpentane). It’s not, but that also doesn’t really matter for our purposes. Octane contains 8 carbon atoms (hence the oct- prefix, like Dr. Octopus) and 18 hydrogen atoms. Carbon has a molecular weight of 12 and hydrogen has a molecular weight of 1, so octane has a total molecular weight of 114 (8 x 12 + 18 x 1).

Oxygen has a molecular weight of 16, so CO2 has a total molecular weight of 44 (12 + 16 + 16). Every molecule of octane makes 8 molecules of CO2, with a total molecular weight of 352 (44 x 8).

6.25 pounds x (352 / 114) = 19.3 pounds

Et voila! All it takes to convert one gallon of gas into 20-ish pounds of carbon dioxide is some highly confusing algebra!

Bonus material:

Gas doesn’t burn 100% cleanly. You also get some carbon monoxide and other nasty stuff coming out of your tailpipe. But that doesn’t really affect our math very much. The official World Resources Institute conversion rate that we use in our carbon calculator is 19.564 pounds of CO2 per gallon of gasoline. Although we round this number to 20 pounds when we speak informally of the amount of carbon dioxide from one gallon of gasoline, all of our online calculators use the more precise figures.

Also, bear in mind that the 19.564 pounds of CO2 are just the direct result of burning gasoline. The process of extracting, refining, and transporting the product adds an extra few pounds per gallon to the actual environmental impact of filling your gas tank.

Finally, your exhaust is quite a bit heavier if you count the steam that is generated. Those 16 hydrogen atoms attached to every octane molecule have to go somewhere. They combine with oxygen to create water (H2O). Every gallon of gas creates roughly 8 pounds of water vapor. And water vapor is, believe it or not, a greenhouse gas, although not one we generally concern ourselves with, for a variety of reasons.

Aren’t you sorry you asked?

Update: Fixed a math typo, corrected the number of hydrogen atoms in octane, and changed the headline to reflect more clearly that the gasoline is turned into carbon dioxide, not carbon. Also clarified the statement about water vapor. Thank you to our many sharp-eyed readers.

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  1. John - March 22, 2006

    Facinating high school chemistry – it’s funny people still think solids as more sgnificant even if in weight, volume and effect as a pollutant are greater in the form of a “harmless”, colourless, odourless gas. Just one point though the header talks about Carbon – the calc is for Carbon Dioxide (a much weighter product).

  2. JasonPStewart - March 22, 2006

    Interesting. You may want to change your literature to talk about creating 20 lbs of “Carbon Monoxide” not “Carbon”. I figured the extra 14 lbs of “Carbon” came from the energy used to pump, transport and refine the stuff before it got to my gas tank (I’m still curious how much that is).

  3. Anonymous - March 22, 2006

    Not to be one of those people, but you’ve got a dyslexic typo in your calculations. The line:
    6.25 pounds x (325 / 112) = 19.64 pounds
    should read:
    6.25 pounds x (352 / 112) = 19.64 pounds

  4. Adam - March 22, 2006

    Thanks. Typo fixed and headline updated.

  5. Anonymous - March 22, 2006

    I believe that the chemical formula for 2,2,4 Trimetylpentane (Isooctane) is (CH3)3CCH2CH(CH3)2 and think that this molecule has 18 hydrogens rather than 16. Doesn’t it have a weight is 114.2285 g/mol rather than 112? If I then use your formula with this revised weight but retain your estimate for the weight of 1 gallon of gasoline (6.25 lb. per gallon), I get 19.3628 lbs of CO2 per gallon. Am I doing this right?

  6. Adam - March 22, 2006

    Argh. Yes, you’re right. This should have been obvious to me — regardless of the exact configuration of the octane, it’s always going to have eight carbon atoms, which means 32 free electrons. 14 of those electrons will be paired up in carbon-carbon single bonds, leaving 18 free electrons for the hydrogen to bond to. My high school chemistry teacher is very unhappy right now.
    I’ve updated the math.
    P.S. You’re using a far more precise atomic mass than me. I’m sticking with the round numbers.

  7. Anonymous - March 22, 2006

    Regarding your update on water, the important difference between water and carbon dioxide is that the carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere sticks around for about 100 years…

    The scientific term is “residence time.” Water vapor, by contrast, has a residence time on the order of days. (This is not to mention that the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold is also a function of temperature.) In any event, it’s true that our contribution to water vapor is insignificant. Pointing this out is a good opportunity to highlight an important part of emmissions problem… it’s at least 100 year commitment.

  8. reliapundit - March 24, 2006

    If the increase in atmospheric CO2 is causing global warming, then what is the most effective and least painful (economically) thing to do about it?
    The answer is NOT KYOTO – which the signatories have either abandoned or violated, and which doesn’t include India, China or the USA – the largest emitters of man-made CO2.
    The answer is clear-cutting (and then replanting) the Amazon Rainforest.
    Old tress do not sequester as muich CO2 as young, growing/fast-growing trees.
    UC-Irvine has recently proven that the Amazon – which sequesters abiout 1/3 of all the CO2 ion the world – is now mostly comprised of very VERY old trees; therefore, the Amazon Rainforest is no longer absorbing/sequestering as much CO2 as it used to – – as when the most of the Amazon’s trees (and therefore the Amazon Rainforest as a whole) were younger.
    THEREFORE, if we REALLY want to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere we should clear-cut huge swathes of the Amazon and replant with young trees.
    In order to prevent the cut trees from decaying – and thereby putting their sequestered CO2 back into the atmosphere – we would need to use the trees for their lumber – either for furniture or for housing. (The world’s poor – in India, Chuina and Africa, and South Amerioca – could use BOTH!)
    So it’s a win-win: the CO2 in the atmosphere gets reduced, and poor people get housing and furniture.
    I have posted on this three or four times at my blog – each post is linked to a few SCIENTIFIC STUDIES.

  9. Rqball John - March 24, 2006

    Just curious, doesn,t any of that carbon in a gallon of gas get used in the explosion, or is all of it expelled out the tail pipe?

  10. Adam - March 24, 2006

    All out the tailpipe. An explosion doesn’t have much meaning at an atomic level. Although an explosion looks dramatic from where we’re sitting — with the bang and the pretty fireball and the bits flying everywhere — at the level of a carbon atom it doesn’t look like anything at all. It’d be kind of like you concentrating real hard to try to feel the earth spinning around the sun.
    Carbon atoms don’t get “used” when gas is burned. They just move around really fast and bond to other atoms. What does get used is the energy contained in the bonds that join the carbon molecules together. This is kind of an abstract concept to get your head around, but imagine it like the old snakes-in-a-can trick. The coiled springs are the bonds joining the carbon atoms together. When the can is opened, the springs are released, and the snakes jump out. Ditto for the carbon atoms.

  11. Dan - March 25, 2006

    How much C02 does a volcano produce?

  12. Adam - March 25, 2006

    What am I, Mr. Wizard?
    The answer is a little surprising. While volcanoes don’t release a significant amount of CO2 compared to humans, they still release quite a bit more than I thought.
    One conservative estimate puts the amount of CO2 released every year by volcanoes at about 150-200 million tons (which you could offset with about 10 million Utility TerraPasses). This is a big number, but the amount created by humans every year is about 150 times bigger.
    Another online source says that volcanoes produce about 3% of annual CO2 emissions. I have no expertise that allows me to evaluate these separate claims.
    Incidentally, the way vulcanologists go about figuring this sort of thing out is to tape sensors to the front of a helicopter and fly them into active volcanoes. That is so freaking cool.
    Update: This comment has been promoted to a full post, with a few extra tidbits included:

  13. David Biddle - March 27, 2006

    Seeing this entire page unfold from the explanation through the comments and corrections should give us hope for what we’re all trying to get at. I am so impressed with the collaborative process in approaching global warming and climate change. Sometimes it seems like the process of thinking through these issues may well end up being the real story (once we get things in working order that is…)

  14. Ron - April 5, 2006

    First, how ’bout not calling gasoline “gas,” since it is a liquid and may be confusing to some.

    More importantly, would you please give us the volume that 20 pounds of CO2 occupies at atmospheric pressure and, say, 70 degrees F?

    Keep up the good work.

  15. Adam - April 6, 2006

    Your wish is my command. Headline updated. Volume calculation here.

  16. Anonymous - April 22, 2006

    Wow, that’s really helpful! I’m doing a paper that deals with emissions, so it’s important to have the numbers right. I just have one question:

    How can 6 pounds of gasoline = 20 pounds of CO2? You can’t create or destroy matter.

    My guess is that the process pulls oxygen from the air in the process of bonding, and then when it is all said and done, you have 20lbs of CO2. Correct?

  17. Adam - April 22, 2006

    Correct. Normally I’d link to the post that explains all this in detail, but…this is the post that explains all this in detail.

  18. Anonymous - April 22, 2006

    I guess that was my problem-the details. That’s some pretty complex algebra!
    So also, I see a potential problem with the replanting the African rainforests theory. It seems that all of those tree are “holding” if you will the CO2. So when you create furniture, or burn the wood for fires or make paper, you would be releasing that CO2 back into the atmosphere. At least then you would have the wood, as the new trees would start to absorb that old CO2 as well as the new stuff. But there has to be a limit to that too.
    Also, in the process of replanting, you’d probably take out all sorts of creatures who have made their home in the old trees.

  19. Adam - April 22, 2006

    Replanting forests is a good thing, and there are some organizations that create carbon offsets by planting trees. There are also some issues with this mode of carbon sequestration, which I won’t go into, because I’m not enough of an expert.
    In general, yes, organic matter is part of the natural carbon cycle, which is why we consider biofuels to be better than fossil fuels. We create carbon dioxide when we burn the biofuels, but the carbon dioxide then gets recycled back into plant matter. This is very different than pumping the carbon out of the ground.
    I know some people are proponents of the “mow down all the forests and let them regrow” theory of carbon sequestration. Can’t say that I’m a fan.

  20. Marc Berner - June 10, 2006

    Many thanks. Saw “An Inconvenient Truth” last night and just enrolled in Terra Pass. May this grassroots campaign spread like a wildfire to heal the earth.

  21. Wayne - August 1, 2006

    Say, I was trying to find a breakdown of emissions other than CO2 within your website. I used to be able to find them under Clean Air Pass. Any suggestions?

  22. Adam Stein - August 1, 2006

    How about Google? We’ve never sold anything called a Clean Air Pass, so you may be thinking of a different web site. TerraPass only remediates CO2, not other gases.

  23. Wayne - August 2, 2006

    Hello again. I found the info I was searching for concerning greenhouse gases and the Global Warming Potential. CO2 has a GWP of 1, CH4 (methane) has a GWP of 21, and N2O has a GWP of 310. Any comments?

  24. Wayne - August 4, 2006

    Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m just trying to do as much research into this as possible. I agree with the concept and am aware of other CX locations other than Chicago. However, I just tried your vehicle emissions test based on 15000 miles annually and I am of the opinion the results is grossly under estimated!!

  25. Adam Stein - August 4, 2006

    Hi Wayne,
    I’m not 100% sure I’m following the question, but I think I can shed some light on what you’re asking. There are a number of greenhouse gases, including methane, NOX, etc., that are created when gasoline is burned. Often these are translated into their pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) based on their global warming potential. So, as you note, one pound of methane is treated as roughly 21 pounds of carbon dioxide from the perspective of environmental impact.
    If you added up all the emissions from a gallon of gasoline and translated them to pounds of CO2e, it would bump up the amount of CO2 produced from roughly 20 lbs per gallon to somewhere in the mid-20s per gallon. Even though N2O has a much higher GWP than CO2, there is also much less of it created when you burn gas.
    So I don’t believe our calculation is a gross underestimation. Another important point is that some of the other emissions vary considerably by car type, so it’s difficult to account for them in a consistent way.

  26. Wayne - August 4, 2006

    Thank-you for the clarification. I guess part of the inconsistencies is due in part to EPA and calibration of fuel economy is based on volume (density) not weight!

  27. Anonymous - September 2, 2006

    I’m still put off by the typical sound bite (and your headline). We are not creating matter. Opening with a fallacy does more harm than good by making the entire argument less credible. Personally, I think it is even more frightening to note that we are not only adding CO2 to the atmosphere, but using O2 in the process.

  28. Adam Stein - September 2, 2006

    Er, no one said anything about “creating matter.” Gasoline starts as liquid hydrocarbon and ends as a gaseous organic compound. The headline is perfectly factual.
    Moreover, there’s no “argument” being made in this post whose credibility can be moved in one direction or the other. It’s a bit of stoichiometry — high school chemistry.

  29. Martin - September 6, 2006

    Just for fun, it would be interesting to calculate how much O2 gets removed from the atmosphere, and how much CO2 gets added, after all the recoverable oil in the Alberta Tar Sands has been burned by an average combustion engine (car).

    Does CO2 level reach a poisonous level, is there enough O2 left to sustain human breathing?

    For simplicity, I would assume we start with actual levels of concentration of O2 and CO2, and also assume combustion of gasoline is the only reaction (ignore other human and natural reactions like photosynthesis, carbon sequestration, etc.)

  30. J - September 7, 2006

    Hi. Interesting topic. Based on the volcanic CO2 emission questions, I wonder if you already have a link or chart showing the top 5 (10?) world wide contributors to atmospheric CO2 emissions per year?
    On a related note, I was surprised that you reported that humans produce 150 times the CO2 as volcanoes (yearly)…is that primarily from cars? If not answered in the above Top-10 list, what are the top human CO2 producing activities (factories, breathing, etc.)? I had heard that all of the human CO2 emissions were only 5% of the total “global” CO2 emissions…is this the right percentage?
    Many thanks in advance!

  31. Adam Stein - September 7, 2006

    Hi J,
    No, human CO2 production is not primarily from cars. About one third of human CO2 emissions are from transportation, which includes planes. Most of the rest is created by electricity production for residential and commercial use.
    – Adam

  32. Tom Gold - September 18, 2006

    Cars are, however the highest producer, so we should stop driving our stupid gasoline cars and make electric cars.

  33. JB - October 17, 2006

    The crazy thing about this is that the math is actually quite simple. Certain entities strive to confuse the general public in order to portray all the true critical thinkers as crackpots or idiots. I did some simple math on the C02 emmissions from electrical generation facilities. For each kWh generated, approximately 1 kg of C02 is emmitted. The US used approximately 3.8 trillion kWh in 2003. The result is staggering considering the fact that this stuff is pouring out 24/7/365 ad infinitum all over the world (not just in the U.S.). Detractors will take this and say I’ve got my numbers all wrong and ridicule me for trying to put it all in perspective. If all you have your mind on is profits, simple math becomes fuzzy for some reason or other.

  34. Dick in Houston - November 2, 2006

    It would be really interesting to me to see similar calculations for the entire barrel of oil from which the gasoline is refined. Each 42 gallon barrel yields (or so I am told) about 19-20 gallons of gasoline. The remaining 22-23 gallons is turned into furnace oil, diesel fuel, cleaning fluid, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and so forth. Is there any way to make an educated guess about the CO2 output from those?

  35. Tom T - November 5, 2006

    Another response to the cut all the trees down for the good of all people.
    It seams that planting trees in all of those places that are already deforested might be a good start. There is much in the US and Europe that was once forest. So we wouldn’t have to calculate the carbon it would take to cut down all of those Amazonian trees, process them, and finally ship them to the world’s furniture deficient homeless. We could just start planting trees here.

  36. Ru Hartwell - November 30, 2006

    Great Stuff. We’ve come up with this idea of a ‘Sequestration Farm’. The trees are grown to maturity and then harvested into large baulks of timber and buried in the sea. In the anaerobic conditions down there the wood will last for literally thousands of years before relinquishing its Carbon back to the atmosphere. The brash can be turned into Biochar to lock its carbon into the soil long-term (Terra Preta) and the same plot of land replanted to begin the process again (ad infinitum). Basically what we are attempting to do is recreate the worlds stored fossil fuel reserves one tree at a time and in doing so re-absorb the 6 Gigaton surplus of carbon up there.

  37. Enrique - December 11, 2006

    Thank you so much on having this info. i will use it to respond to a non beleiver of global warming on the daily journal.
    thanks again.

  38. Anonymous - December 15, 2006

    I must say that some of these “cut down the forests and replant them” need to consider a few other important factors:

    First: Soils are not infinite resevoirs of nutrients. In particular, the Amazon soils are well-drained, nutrient poor soils. Plant life needs nutrients from decaying plant matter to grow. If you take that plant matter and turn it into furniture and/or put it at the bottom of the ocean, then you deplete the nutrients available for the next generation of trees. This means you can grow less trees per acre EACH TIME you cut and clear.

    Second: New trees will not take in great quantities of CO2 for the first few years of life. Mature trees continue to sequester until dead, and should thus be spared the chainsaw. If the goal is purely sequestration, then the area occupied by the tree could be replanted.

    Third: A healthy forest needs trees in various stages of succession. Other plants that form the understory (below canopy level) will struggle to grow in mono-culture, nutrient depleted forest stands, and thus the amount of CO2 you will be removing from the atmosphere is decreased.

    I agree with the comment that we should focus on areas that are already deforested, rather than accelerating the rapid rate of current deforestment.

  39. Ainslie - December 18, 2006

    This is all really helpful, especially the last thinking about how we can think more critically about forestry and carbon sequestration.

    I’m especially interested in data on C02 produced by coal-fired power plants per KWH. In northern Wyoming (as in other states such as PA, and globally, in the UK and China), near-surface coal is abundant. Many ranchers have been picking coal from road cuts and other places where coal seams are exposed for generations to heat their homes and shops.
    I personally have a small Swedish coal burning stove; my back-up is the “Econoheat” electric wall panels, which are quite efficient compared to electric baseboard. So I’m wanting to compare C02 produced per Btu of heat – burning the coal directly in my home (which is new, well insulated, with south-facing windows, and small) vs. buying electricity from a coal-fired power plant for the heaters. If anyone can reccommend websites with relevant data, it would be helpful. I’m planning to contact the nearby mine that is the source for the assay info and our power company.

    p.s. the dollar cost is a no-brainer: $40/ton; I use about 1/3 of a ton/month, so I’m heating my house for about $5/week! But this is the problem with most of the resources we use. The price does not reflect the true cost.

  40. Question Consumption - December 20, 2006

    This is a fantastic discussion and thank God it is finally happening. One thought that has not been discussed and is off topic, but I think noteworthy. Everyone should be looking at conservation in all its forms. There is a vast amount of CO2 generated (along with many other wasteful things) in everyday things that we (especially Americans)do thoughtlessly. How many people run the water while they brush their teeth? How many people have lights burning in rooms that they are not in? How many drive to the store when they could walk 2 blocks. Do you buy the name brand toilet paper because it is 60 cents cheaper then buying enviromentally friendly toilet paper ( seventh generation, etc). The list could go on and on. Start making conscious decisions based upon the impact, however small. Evaluate what you truly need versus what you want. Rebel against the excess consumerism this country has turned into. If you want to make a difference, START WITH YOU!

  41. Woody - December 29, 2006

    Yes, QC, there are large & small energy consumption issues everywhere in our culture. We need to attend to all of them since collectively they each become quite sugnificant.

    This is off-topic but extremly important: the birth of one human being triggers ALL the energy & resource consumption of a lifetime. This effect multiplies because the progeny of one person (OK sticklers–2 people) continues or expands the consumptive process for an untold amount of time to come.

    Keeping our own family size in check as well as supporting family planning charities has an incredibly far reaching effect on solving all kinds of problems, global warming being the most relevant here.

  42. Claus Koenig - January 3, 2007

    I ran this equation against the annual consumption of gasoline, which is 846 Million Tonnes. And that is 1.862 Trillion lbs. Now divided by 6.25 lbs/gallon of gasoline times 19.3 lbs / gallon of gasoline equals 5,747,385.6 Million Lbs of CO2 and 2,382,336 Million lbs of H2O steam. I hope I got it right, because those big numbers sound so unbelievable. The question is how many trees do you need to absorb all the CO2: According to some government agency in Canada 1 acre of healthy mature forest produces 22 lbs of O2 /tree /year or 8,800 lbs O2 / year. Then for 5,747,385.6 Million pounds of CO2 / year you need 474,990,545 acres of healthy mature forest. So we need 742,173 square miles of healthy mature forest. That can’t be right. And these are numbers from 2004 and only gasoline consumption. Please, prove me wrong!

  43. Smith - January 16, 2007

    Would there be a difference in carbon dioxide level emitted from a car exhaust if different grades of gas were used? (Example: would using the highest level octane gas (premium) emit more or less CO2 than lower level or regular gas??

  44. Larry Grob - January 17, 2007


    I’m not going to bust your chops about math or metrics here. Just wanted to thank you for this informative post and its usefulness (to me at least) in helping eliminate what I’ve been perceiving to be a stumbling block for many people–the notion of the ‘weight’ attributable to gaseous emissions. I was able to ‘translate’ your message into a simplified (by scientific standards) visual model, and posted it on my blog, which is designed to filter the massive amounts of information on sustainability for those who are just finding their eConsciousness. Thanks again.

    Larry Grob

  45. Jamy B - January 23, 2007

    I’ve recently spent hours trying to derive the results from this post by approximating the chemical composition of gasoline as a blend of n-heptane and iso-octane using the following stoichiometry:

    C7H16 + 11 O2 → 7 CO2 + 8 H2O

    2 C8H18 + 25 O2 → 16 CO2 + 18 H2O

    I used the following densities to set the mole fractions:

    density of C7H16 at 20C = 683.76 g/L
    density of C8H18 at 20C = 702.50 g/L

    I assumed a blend of 87% octane to 13% heptane and came up with 18.04 # of CO2/gal of gasoline

    Even if I go back and use 100% heptane or 100% octane, the results will still be ~18 #/gal

    I’ve seen iso-octane listed at 691.90 g/L at 20C which again will not greatly effect the results.

    This estimate does not include the reality that air and not pure O2 is being included as a reactant and that there will be unburned hydrocarbons in the products.

    What is the real chemical composition of “gasoline”? And what did the WRI use to come up 19.564 #/gal?

  46. Adam Stein - January 23, 2007

    Hi, Jamy. I admire your dedication. The difference between your result for pure octane and our result for pure octane is due to the different weights we’re assuming for a gallon of gas. Doing the math on your densities, I come up with a weight of 5.86 lbs for a gallon of gas. As you can see above, I used a weight of 6.25 lbs, which I pulled off the web (no idea where at this point).
    I can’t say what assumptions went into the WRI numbers. As you can see, the final result is sensitive to the inputs, although the results aren’t enormously different.

  47. Anonymous - February 14, 2007

    I love the way that you do your math (which i am not entirely sure is right)then conclude that 6 pounds of gas .25 pounds shy a reduction of 4% gives 20 pounds of co2 an increase of .7 pounds a 3.6% increase thus biasing your conclusion by ??% you work it out, i think 19 pounds is still interestin but it is not be to dramatic. I wouldn’t buy a car off you with those tactics especially if you were promoting its fuel effciency.
    [Ed. note — our math is right. Also, we have no idea what you’re getting at.]

  48. Anonymous - February 15, 2007

    I found this info on the web, regarding the chemical composition of regular gasoline, but my source now eludes me. Unfortunately, these add up to 86.6% so there is 13.4% missing/unknown.
    straight-chain alkanes – [octane 114.2285 g/mol]
    17.3% by volume
    branched alkanes – [iso-octane 114.229 g/mol]
    32.0% by volume
    cycloalkanes – [cyclohexane 84.16 g/mol]
    5.0% by volume
    olefins – Alkenes – [1-hexene 84.1608 g/mol]
    1.8% by volume
    aromatics – Benzene [C6H6]
    30.5% by volume
    ca. 19 pounds of CO2 emitted per gallon of gasoline combusted seems the most reasonable and accepted calculation available.

  49. Berge Jay - February 19, 2007

    This blog’s discussion is very informative. But the idea of purchasing carbon credits is a money making scheme. We, the population of the world need to change habits and use clean sources of energy. Changing habits requires putting money into environmentally friendly methods of producing the energy we need to live and make a living in a comfortable manor, not returning to the caves. I for one have put my money where my mouth is, Rather than buying questionable Terra pass or such, I have installed a 7200 kw PV system, changed most of my light bulbs to fluorescent, installed energy star appliances, and added insulation to the house. All that has cut my eclectic bill by about 40% and my fuel oil consumption by 60%. I live in NY.

  50. Adam Stein - February 20, 2007

    Hi Berge,
    We think it’s great that you’ve taken all of these measures, and we certainly encourage all TerraPass members (and non-members) to take similar steps wherever possible. Solar panels are out of reach for many people, though, and so TerraPass provides an alternate way for people to, as you say, put their money where their mouth is by funding clean energy.

  51. Alex_in_FL - February 21, 2007

    Marc: Al Gore’s movie, An inconvienent truth is mainly myth – just like his book Earth in the Balance.

    GWP of water exceeds all of those, water is largest “greenhouse” gas (water vapor). Yes water is around for short time but we add it continuously so it is a factor.

    Annon 48: Gasoline is primarily 6-12 carbon compounds. It includes Toluene, benzene, and many other fractions. Components vary by location and climate. Octane ratings are based upon Iso-octane = 100. But you can’t assume gasoline is 87 or 91% Iso-octane (or any two componds for density) as it is complex mixture.

    Adam: Density of gasoline varies about 15% and 6.25 lb/gallon is reasonable number. 6 pounds of gasoline = 18.5 pounds of CO2 using your own numbers – not 20 pounds as you state. You round up on the CO2 and down on the lbs of gasoline and still are not right. (This is point annon 47 was making). The 19.564 comes out because gasoline is a complex mixture not single compound as your calculation assumes.

    Regarding your more heat = more humidy = more global warming theory. Try this more logica one. More heat = more humidity = more percipitation = more snow = more snow cover = more light reflected = global cooling. So global warming might actually cause global cooling.

    And yes (sorry forgot which poster) you are right, what actually happens is O2 is combined with the carbons to create CO2 so there is no mass creation just mass conversion.

    Lastly, isn’t there already enough CO2 in the air to capture all the radiation being returned at the one point where CO2 absorbs but water does not?

    Whew. Long but just remember, if we had begun combating global cooling in 1976 when all the scientist were in consensus that an ice age was coming we would be congratulating ourselves on success right now when in fact we did NOTHING to change the environment. When the model can explain the 30 year long cooling lasting until the early 1960s while CO2 was increasing I might begin to believe in this green house gas theory.

    Ed. note — Alex in FL provides a helpful survey of the latest ignorance. Global warming might cause global cooling…except that on this planet, it doesn’t. CO2 is not, in fact, saturated in the atmosphere. And at the time of the supposed “consensus” about global cooling, a majority of scientists were already concerned about global warming.

  52. Eric - February 21, 2007

    Has anyone ever burned a gallon of gasoline, captured the emissions in a vacuum chamber, compressed the emissions down into a one gallon container and weighed it? This might get us the actual weight.

  53. Observer - February 23, 2007

    Interesting. Terrapass can not refute arguments by Alex_in_FL so they edit his post to belittle him? Does this mean that serious, accurate, fact based scientists are not welcome here? That the SOP is to ridicule when you can’t refute? He does make valid points (assuming validity counts).
    Lastly, he has an interesting perspective in that global warming may cause global cooling. I think the huge snow storms of last week were attributed to global warming and more humidity hitting the cooler northern air thus causing record snow fall. Oh, wait, this does not support the party line so will my post be edited and ridiculed too?

  54. Adam Stein - February 23, 2007

    Um…these arguments have been refuted so many times by accurate, fact-based, scientists that they don’t deserve any attention. The SOP here is to engage in discussion with people who are interested in honest exchange of ideas, and to wring a few larfs out of those who aren’t.

  55. Anonymous - March 27, 2007

    Re #51 & 53:
    H2O is limited in how much can stay as vapour: dependent on how much total water (ocean), the surface of that water, and the temperature of the air.
    Until we significantly increase H2O production, we won’t see the water volume or surface increase any. So we can ignore anything other than H2O.
    But there is already (you’ll agree) H2O in the atmosphere, so the change will not be a huge ammount (because that’s your argument for CO2 not being the answer). Excess H2O will not become vapour but will drip on to the floor as solid water.
    So the increase in H2O doesn’t depend really on how much H2O we are adding.
    Re: rounding down/up. There’s more than just petrol in a barrel of crude. Some of that gets burned. It still ends up being a doubling of weight burning oil to CO2. 42->84.
    Lastly, there may be enough at the peak absorption of CO2 to trap all at that waelength. However, the FWHM bandwidth isn’t saturated for that, and that includes more energy radiated. Rovibrational bands that are small will still double and so on. So you may not see a doubling in the insulative effects when doubling CO2 but you will see a large increase.
    All taken not as a scientist but as a physicist. Much as this article is merely maths.

  56. Dennis Schmitz - April 2, 2007

    CO2 has virtually no impact on temperatures. At approx. 350 parts per million CO2 is just a drop in the bucket. If I have a snowball consisting of 2850 snowflakes, and that snowball has a temperature of 25 degress, except for the one CO2 molecule with a temperature of 26 degrees, the one 26 degree molecule (CO2) will not change the temperature of the snowball from 25 degrees. Increase the CO2 molecule a few more degrees and still no change in the temperature of the snowball. And besides humans only contribute about 2.8 percent of total CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. The more research I do into global warming the more I see it is a hoax. Thanks, Dr. Storm

  57. Tom Arnold - April 2, 2007

    Yes folks, who do you believe. Dennis’ snowball analogy or 1000’s of peer reviewed publications?
    CO2 has a dramatic and well understood radiative forcing function.

  58. Dennis Schmitz - April 3, 2007

    I’m just trying to put this into perspective. At 350 parts per million (1 part per every 2850) what temperature must the CO2 molecule be to raise the other 2849 molecules one degree F? I understand the radiative forcing, but would like to see an actual numbers here.

  59. Tom Arnold - April 3, 2007

    Dennis: That’s a totally legitimate question.

    As measured by the IPCC, the radiative forcing effect of CO2 in the atmosphere is 1.46 Watt/sq meter.

    Read more here:

    And for a very nifty graph showing the contributions (both positive and negative) of different gases:

  60. Adam Stein - April 3, 2007

    One kinda funny thing is that Dennis isn’t just questioning (anthropogenic) global warming — he’s actually questioning whether there’s any such thing as the greenhouse effect. At 350 ppm, he says, CO2 can’t have an effect on global temperature.

    But without CO2 in the atmosphere, the earth would be an ice ball, with an average surface temperature of -18° C.

    Disputing the existence of the greenhouse effect would take denialism in exciting new directions. The greenhouse effect is basic science, about as controversial as the existence of gravity.

  61. Dennis Schmitz - April 4, 2007

    I am not disputing the greenhouse effect. You claim without CO2 the earth’s temperature would be -18 degrees C. That is incorrect. Without a greenhouse effect at all the temperature would be minus 18C. Water vapor accounts for more than 95% of the greenhouse effect. It is a fact that CO2 rises when temperature rises and not the opposite. CO2 has no effect on global temperatures. It is a good idea to get information concerning this subject outside the IPCC. If CO2 is a great heat trapping gas, then it would have to be a poor heat radiating gas. As I stated previously, CO2 is one part per every 2850, and would not be able to increase the temperature of the other 2800 plus air molecules. The “sun” is what is driving the current minor increase in global temperatures, not CO2.

  62. AH - April 4, 2007

    Dennis’s question stems from an incorrect understanding of how the greenhouse effect works. The CO2 is at exactly the same temperature as the surrounding gas (25C in his example). What happens is that it interferes with the radiation of heat from the earth’s surface into space. The extent of this interference is a function of how many CO2 molecules there are per unit volume and is actually (nearly) independent of how many other molecules of oxygen, nitrogen or other gases there are (of course, some other molecules like methane and H2O have similar effects, though of different magnitudes).

  63. AH - April 4, 2007

    Since we seem to have posted at essentially the same time, I’ll add that the IPCC is not just one among many competing interest groups, but is open to the entire scientific community worldwide. To be outside the IPCC is in essence to not be engaged in scientific study of global warming.

  64. Adam Stein - April 4, 2007

    I can’t believe I’m responding to this baiting, but this topic is actually kind of fun…

    Dennis, you are correct that the greenhouse effect is caused by a number of gases. You are incorrect that CO2 is not one of them. As for the IPCC, I think you’re actually referring to the IPCC report, which, as AH notes, is authored via an open process that encompasses all of mainstream climate research.

    But just for fun, let’s step outside the confines of the IPCC. A lot of foundational work on the temperature effects of CO2 was done by Svante Arrhenius, who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry…in 1903. Although many of his calculations were later shown to be flawed, his estimate that a doubling in atmospheric CO2 levels would lead to a 4 – 6°C rise in global temperature is remarkably close to the predictions of modern climate models. Not bad for a guy who had to do the math by hand.

    Again, you’re arguing against the existence of gravity. The notion that a concentration of 350 ppm is too small to matter is, well, rather eccentric. There is no magic ratio below which chemicals stop having an effect.

  65. tbg - April 4, 2007

    I’ve never delved into the TerraPass blog before, and let me say – it is a wonder. This particular post and resulting discussion are particularly helpful to me, since I feel like so much of the time we take global climate change for granted that we forget to keep explaining some of the simpler math. [aside: your argument, Alex_in_FL, is precisely why I use the term global climate change or climate instability rather than just “warming,” since there are already all sorts of observed weather patterns that are a whole lot more than just extra degrees] I’ve really enjoyed most of the posts, especially the skeptics, since the responses to those help me formuate my responses when I am working with these issues (particularly posts like Dennis, since I wouldn’t have even seen that one coming!). Thanks!

  66. Dennis Schmitz - April 5, 2007

    I must say I am developiing a much more open mind to this subject. To AH’s response, #62, if the CO2 molecule is the same temperature as surronding gases, then how does this interference idea work? My understanding was the CO2 molecule would lose heat at a much slower rate than the other surronding air molecules (hence heat trapping gas). Thanks, Dennis

  67. Dennis Schmitz - April 5, 2007

    I guess I should double check my spelling before posting. 3 typos, developing, surrounding and surround. Sorry, Dennis

  68. Ryan - April 9, 2007


    I do not claim to be an expert on this subject but I am working towards my Ph.D in atmospheric chemistry. The question you are asking delves into some quantum mechanics.

    Starting at the basics it is important to understand what makes a greenhouse gas a greenhouse gas. Above all else the molecule must be infrared active. This means that IR radiation causes the molecule to go through either rotational or vibrational transitions (i.e. the molecule starts to vibrate/rotate/bend/stretch along its bonds). In order for this to happen the molecule must have a dipole moment or be able to have an induced dipole moment. This is why water vapor and CO2 are such goo greenhouse gases. Water has a permanent dipole moment and CO2 can have an induced dipole moment (the oxygens on either side of the carbon can start to stretch back and forth and bend up and down). Molecular oxygen and nitrogen on the other hand cannot and do not have dipoles so therefore cannot be greenhouse gases.

    To make a long lecture short and in the essence of not confusing you more than you already may be, the molecule will absorb the IR radiation and then reemit it in the form of thermal radiation. This is then reabsorbed by the earth making it warmer still. So the interference idea is not that CO2 gains or loses HEAT but it does have a change in ENERGY that is converted into heat by the earth’s surface. And answering your main question (finally) it is not that CO2 loses heat more slowly than the surrounding air, it is just that the majority of air (nitrogen and oxygen) can’t interact with IR radiation and do not have the means to be greenhouse gases due to the reasons described above. It has nothing to do with heat retention and everything to do with a molecule’s dipole moment and energy transitions and some other stuff.

    Again, this is a gross over simplification in order to make it semi understandable to people not having taken quantum chemistry and physical chemistry courses. I only hope I have not confused you more. But just understand that this phenomenon is not some theory made up by liberal propagandists, it is real science that has been observed in labs for decades.

    To anyone who can describe this better, please do so.

    Dennis: For your own benefit it may be worth while to look up black body radiance of the earth and how greenhouse gasses effect it.

  69. Eric - April 11, 2007

    I agree that CO2 is harmful, emissions need to be reduced, miles per gallon need to be increased, and so on.
    The title says six pounds of gasoline make twenty pounds of carbon dioxide. That isn’t true, and it isn’t even supported by the information given.
    The contents of the article say that MORE than six pounds (6.25) of gasoline make LESS than 20 pounds (19.3) of CO2.
    [Ed. — man, this article attracts pedants like flies to honey. As the commenter notes, the information given in this article is excruciatingly accurate and clear. And the headline also uses accurate rounded values: 6.25 –> 6, 19.564 –> 20.]

  70. Dennis Schmitz - April 11, 2007

    Thanks Ryan for the information. This got me thinking about how CO2 warms the surface. It seems possible that CO2 could also cool the surface. Let’s say in the artic in winter (no solar heating) the ice (surface) temperature is zero degrees. Now an air mass moves in at 50 degrees below zero. The CO2 now reemits thermal heat so to speak, which is minus 50 degrees, therefore cooling the surface further, cooling the air temperature further. I guess this would be as the air temperatures tries to modify the CO2 keeps modification from occuring. Possible? Thanks, Dennis

  71. Ryan - April 11, 2007

    Hey Dennis

    I think I see what your question is. In order for the air mass to do what you are asking it must be constantly emitting thermal radiation (radiation not heat). But this is not the case; the reemitting of the thermal radiation is a one time deal-it only happens nearly immediately when the gas interacts with the incoming infrared radiation and it will not store any of this energy to be reemitted at a later time.

    So let me explain again in a more coherent way how the greenhouse process works (last time I don’t think I did a good job). When light (electromagnetic radiation) comes in through the earth’s atmosphere it is of a relatively short wavelength and carbon dioxide and other gases cannot absorb it. But the earth is a black body and can absorb all wavelengths so the earth absorbs the short wavelengths and then reemits the radiation at a longer wavelength. This longer wavelength can then be absorbed by the greenhouse gases which in turn reemit the radiation back to earth where they can heat things up again. It is like the game of pong, the radiation goes back and forth between the gases and earth until it escapes. The whole time it is bouncing around it is constantly heating up whatever absorbs it.

    So in short if there is no sun as in the arctic winter, there is no radiation to be emitted back and forth. The carbon dioxide does not retain this thermal radiation, just like a mirror does not retain images after the bathroom light is shut off. There has to be light to be reflected.

    What would actually happen in the case of the colder air than on the ground is the ground would get colder (slightly) but the air would get warmer (more dramatically). They would come into “thermal equilibrium” with each other but this has nothing to do with greenhouse gases it is one of the laws of thermodynamics. The ground would transfer heat to the air but the air would not transfer cold to the ground.

    I get the feeling that I am not a very good teacher but I hope I am doing you more good than bad. Its good to see that you are curious about this stuff and ask questions rater than thinking everything is a hoax! Don’t feel bad if it does not make a whole lot of sense. I could spend hours in person with someone going over this stuff, but in this setting it is just not possible.

  72. Anonymous - April 29, 2007

    Please list the 5 major “greenhouse gases” in order of highest concentration to lowest.
    If greenhouse gases are “causing” the 1 degree C increase that the earth has experienced in the last 100 years, then please point me to the data that shows that the temperature of the troposphere is increasing faster than the surface temperature of the earth.
    If it isn’t really the concentration of “greenhouse gases” which cause the temperature of the earth to increase but it is actually the concentration of CO2 (due to a higher rate of magic-ness than methane or water vapor) why did the earth’s temperature decrease from 1940’s-1970’s when the concentration of CO2 continued to increase as the post WWII industrial revolution dumped tons of CO2 into the atmosphere?

  73. neil - May 5, 2007

    RE: cutting trees & forests because old trees do not sequester carbon –

    the latest science is starting to show that this is not completely true. recent research out of Europe & China indicates that old-growth forests can store atmospheric carbon. a survey of forest biomass [carbon] around the world show higher amounts of biomass [carbon] in the older temperate forests.

    the notion that old trees and forests are ‘dying of old age’ was actually show to be somewhat ridiculous in 1927 by Bob Marshall in the Journal of Forestry “Influence of precipitation cycles on forestry”. Why the idea that we need to cut forests to reinvigorate them has persisted for so long is beyond me.

  74. Dennis - May 15, 2007

    As I continue to do research on global warming, I find so many misconceptions. For one, CO2 absorbs all the available IR at very low concentrations, therefore the amount of heating CO2 is responsible for occurs at very low concentrations. Imagine a 1″ square column or tube of air from the surface up to 4000 meters (height where CO2 official measurements are taken) and the amount of CO2 in that area. There are billions of CO2 molecules in that column, and at a very low altitude all the IR is absorbed. Add more CO2, the altitude at which all IR is absorbed lowers, thus no additional heating occurs.
    This is science, pure and simple. Therefore CO2 is a heat trapping gas, but has done all it is capable of at a far lower concentration than todays 383 ppm.
    [Ed. — nope. This is a common fallacy. See here and here for how this really works.]

  75. Darryl - June 4, 2007

    Ed. — comment deleted.
    Oh, Darryl, this was just such a sad showing. You wrote to us with a hostile and ignorant question, and we did you the favor of responding with helpful and factually correct information.
    And you thanked us by scrawling graffiti on our web site. What motivates this kind of smallmindedness?

  76. Sam Schock - July 30, 2007

    During my lifetime this planet population has more than tripled thereby creating humongous demand on the planets resources.

    The greenhouse effect of C02: fact or fiction? The facts are that planet earth exists in a near perfect vacuum; outer space is reported to consist of 6 to 8 hydrogen atoms per cubic meter which can’t radiate heat into outer space where it is plenty cold; PLANET EARTH EXISTS IN A NEAR PERFECT VACUUM.

    Heat reaches planet earth in the form of a ultra-violet rays from our sun; the ultra-violet rays from the sun makes possible the vegetation on planet earth, which converts the locked oxygen in the earth into atmospheric oxygen, while it scrubs carbon from the atmosphere and locks it into fibrous vegetation; it’s a chemistry that only GOD could create. Where the ultra-violet rays hit surfaces other than vegetation, it is transformed into radiant heat which radiates from atom to atom in whatever; HEAT, ONCE GENERATED, CANNOT BE NUTRALIZED, IT TADIATES OUTWARD INTO THE ENVIRONMENT; INT EH ATMOSPHERE IT IS FROM OXYGEN ATOMS TO NITROGEN ATOMS; IN OUR WATERS IT IS FROM OXYGEN ATOMS TO HYDROGEN ATOMS; IN TEH CASE OF MATTER AND METALS IT RADIATES FROM ATOM TO ATOM OF WHATEVER.

    Significant changes to this chemistry has been as a result of human activity; as we cut down the forests we alter GOD’S intended chemistry; fluoro-carbons have resulted in the destruction of upper atmosphere ozone; while our use of hydro-carbons have increase ground level ozone.

    Global warming is a fact as a result of human activity; the Greenland ice-caps attests to that; all the electrical power generating plants are water cooled, including the nuclear power plants; and all that cooling water which has been warmed by the power generating plants ends up in a stream, river, lake and finally in the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of North America, it gets picked up by the Gulf Stream which flows northward hitting Greenland head-on, and we are witnessing the melt-down of the Greenland ice-cap.

    If you believe that you are saving planet earth by buying a hybrid vehicle you are being deceived; that electric powered motor generates heat which is dissipated into the atmosphere, into the environment; AND HEAT, ONCE GENERATED, IS THEREFORE FOREVER AND A DAY. Put your hand on an electrical motor after running it a few moments and you can feel the heat.

    The foregone explains the mechanics of HEAT; global warming has little to do with C02 the heat that we generate on planet earth (and we generate a lot of it) can’t go anywhere in a vacuum.

    the gasses that are being flared daily by the oil industry is an outright sin; then the scientists came up with the catalytic converter which was to be the solution to the C02 problem ( that’s a real heat generator) , the technology is there to do a reasonably clean burning internal combustion engine, but it all involves heat and how one uses it.

    When I was till driving cars I could get them to run on 30% less gasoline than was the factory delivery; when I pulled the spark-plugs they were a light tan in color, clean; no carbon build up. As of 1990 the automotive industry has done their best to get rid of hte back yard auto mechanics; and govt’s have bought into it hook, line, and sinker.

    The automotive industry has the stoechimetric hang-up; some nit-wit (scientist) determined that it required 8999 liters of air to burn 1 liter of gasoline: THAT IS JUST PLAIN BULL. The technology is there to more than double the current gasoline mileage, which mean that there is less heat output for every mile that is being driven.

    C02 is a minor element in global warming; the real culprit is the HEAT being released into the environment; it cannot radiate into the vacuum of space. Had God meant for man to fly He would have created man with wings. With all the computers that we have should we be able to calculate the BTU’s is spewed into he environment daily. The heat that we produce on planet earth will not radiate outward into the vacuum of space.

  77. Adam Stein - July 30, 2007

    Sam — awesome comment. Totally, completely wrong, but awesome nonetheless.
    The heat radiation from manmade energy production is a minor rounding error compared to the energy that hits us from the sun. What’s the old factoid — the sunlight that hits us in a single hour is enough to meet the world’s energy needs for an entire year? Something like that. So it really is the combination of greenhouse gases and solar radiation that drives the global temperature balance.

  78. Anonymous - August 7, 2007

    Adam, thanks for the interesting and informative article. This is something I’ve been wondering about for a while now.
    I do have an issue with the math however. The atomic weight of carbon is 6, not 12. Also, the atomic weight of oxygen is 8 and one of your calculations uses 16 (O2 is 2 x 8, not 2 x 16). Here are the numbers I calculate:
    C8H18 – 6*8 + 1*18 = 66
    CO2 – 6 + 8*2 = 22
    One C8H18 molecule produces 8 CO2 so the ratio is 8 * 22 / 66 = 2.67. Multiply by the 6.25 weight of a gallon of gas gives only 16.7 lbs. of CO2.
    This doesn’t change the explanation of why there can be a roughly threefold increase in weight, but does show, I suspect, that the calculations are much more complex than shown here.

  79. Adam Stein - August 7, 2007

    Hi Anon,
    Glad you like the article. You’re mixing up atomic number and atomic weight, though. Atomic number is the number of protons in each atom, and you’re right that the atomic numbers of carbon and oxygen are 6 and 8 respectively. But atomic weight also includes neutrons, and the weights of carbon and oxygen are 12 and 16.
    – Adam

  80. Sam Schock - August 9, 2007

    WOW! I did get a live one. “Totally, completely wrong, but awesome nonetheless.” I don’t see any difference between planet earth being bottled up in a greenhouse and being bottled up in the vacuum of that which is defined as outer space; the heat which is generated by the sun, and that which man generates by his use of fossil fuels can’t get out of your greenhouse, or my planet earth into the vacuum of space. The heat input via ultra-violet rays of the sun are much the same today as they have been for centuries. Planet earth has experienced climatic variances over the ages; but as of the industrial age the average mien world temperature has been on the increase, really going up the scale as of World War II; the petrol which fueled World War II came out of British and German coalmines; I would know as I was there. I could suggest a solution; you might try artifical clouds; smokescreans at elevations of 50 to 100 miles altitude; now that I think of it, it might not be such a good idea, it may just stay up there and your stuck with it. Ever notice how a heavy cloud can block out the sun and you have a 10 degree Cen. temperature drop in a matter of minutes. God reportedly shielded the Israelites under a cloud to protect them from the heat of the Siani Desert sun and heat for forty years. There is no question that global warming is the result of human activity, and if we don’t change our economic system real quick it’s going to get hot, hot, hot. I can visualize your response, AWESOME, AWESOME. I grew up with the evolution of the internal combustion engine; I had a Willy’s Jeep for 2 years, 4 months during the war; the only servicing that it had I did; I know what makes an engine run; when I was driving cars I bought the Chev in-line 6 cylinder with the power-glide transmission; in 7 tenths of a mile I would be at 110 MPH; my cruising speed was 85 to 90; I had 2 speeding tickets in Canada, both speed traps; I pulled up 4 times in the US, telling them that I always drove this speed; they just warned me; 15 minutes later I was up to speed; my tach would be at 2800 RPM; 3600 rpm at 110 MPH. Have you ever driven 1160 miles in 21hrs. 15min? Marathon, Ont., to Kipling, Sask. I fueled and had breakfast, the washroom at Thunder Bay a time-zone change, I fueled, lunched, the washroom at Dryden, I fueled, lunched, the washroom at Winnipeg, the time-zone change was the Man. / Sask. boarder, and I was in Kipling, Sask. at 10:30 PM.; I had to slow down some for a lot of villages along the way. I was driving cars that were twice the weight of the cars of today. 150 t0 200 miles per Imp. gal. are possible if one does it my way. I once boarded with 3 RCMP officers at Cranbrook, BC., one had a Cobra, every day at breakfast and supper time he would give us the Cobra THING, one Saturday he was polishing it as I sat on the steps of the boarding place; he asked, did I want a ride? We went out of town to a straight stretch of road; we were a bit over a mile before he passed the 100 MPH mark, when we got back I asked if he wanted a ride in my car; I went to the same startup point; in 7 tenths of a mile we were at 110 MPH., when we got back he wanted to see what it was that I had under the hood; when he saw an in line 6 cylinder he just walked away; he never talked about the Cobra again so long as I was there. I got my education by getting my hands dirty; the closest that I came to a university was 3 months at RCMC at Kingston, Ont., I had to learn and learn it fast. The automotive costumer is being had; BIG TIME. Some of us oldtimers have knowhow that you don’t get at a university. Everybody is touting electrical energy as the way to go; nitrogen is used to cool the electrical generaters at the Grand Coule Dam, I expect the same is the case with all mega-watt generaters; even your windpower generater is producing BTU’s as it generates electrical power, and as you use that electrical energy it is producing BTU’s, all of which radiate outward to be trapped forever in your greenhouse, my vacuum bottle. Start counting the BTU’s instead of the CO2. The heat that we generate on planet earth will not radiate outward into the vacuum of outer space because it requires an association of atoms, molecules, to transfer the heat. TRULY AWESOME INDEED. To reduce your CO2 levels you would have to cease using fossil all together, which is not likely. I obviously did get the attention of one party, which was in the negetive; I would expect this commentary to initiate a fullblown debate. There are ways in which we can use the sun to eliminate the production of CO2, which produces BTU’s which perform work; to heat our housing. When you go to your fridge to get a cold beer you are using BTU’s and producing CO2; both events are going on as you sleep. Should somebody out there have one of those CO2 scales on the cheap I would like to buy it; I just can’t get my head around the alchemy of converting 1 kg. of gasoline into 3.25 kg’s. of CO2 thereabouts. Has anybody thought of using water in conjunction with fossil fuels as a fuel? The prairie homesteaders used water in their kerosene fueled Rumley-oil-pulls, the airforce used water during World War II at take-offs, the RCAF used water in their Aurora’s used on Pacific Coast patrol; I believe the technology is there to do just that; you could reduce the CO2 output and still get the BTU’s; it is the BTU’S that do the work; push the aircraft through the air, roll the vehicle along the highway; it is the BTU’s that contribute to global warming. It will be 71 yrs. at the end of this month, August 2007 when we came into Calgary from the east at about 9:30 AM, the atmosphere was clear, we could see the snow capped mountains in the west; twenty years ago they were still visible; today, August 3/07 I was on the LRT going to the northeast, the atmosphere was clear, the sun was bright, not a cloud in the sky, it was 10:00 AM., Calgary was souped in, no mountain view. The only time that one can see the mountains these days is when there is a good stiff breeze from the west, and all you will see are parches of snow on the north face of a mountain. There are two sides to a coin, two sides to a debate; the ultra-violet rays comming from the sun are much the same as they have been for centuries; it is human activity which has triggered global warming. It requuires four times more BTU’s to move a car at 40 MPH than it does at 20 MPH. The faster that one goes the more BTU’s required. How many BTU’s will be put into the atmosphere, environment, at the Montreal NASCAR race? If CO2 is indeed the culprit, you should have cut back on its production decades ago. Mankind has to realize that if it is to survive it has to slow down period. When I hear politicians talking about hydrogen highways I can’t help but be amused; hydrogen isn’t like water; where did they get their education; one does not pick hydrogen off apple trees; one can’t even store it for any length of time in a steel bottle, it will leak through steel; note the refrigeration required by the American space shuttle; ethanol and biofuels are touted as being the solution to CO2 output; work, is the result of BTU’s no matter what the fuel. Your global warming is a real conundrum; ABSOLUTELY AWESOME INDEED. Totally, completely wrong ?? ??? I’ve been shot at for real, I hit the dirt, makes one a smaller target and you survive to continue the fiight. In my last presentation I noted that the automotive industry had determined that the ideal fuel / air ratio would be 8999 litres of air for every litre of gasoline; that works out to a little better than 1 cubic mm of gasoline per litre of air; as air is slightly more than one fifth oxygen, the gas which facilitates the burn of the gasoline, the nitrogen contributes nothing to the burn; the industry has used high compression to achieve the gasifying of the gasoline in order that it would burn more efficiently; the industry has resorted to the small bore, short stroke, and high RPM; gasoline, any fuel requires time to burn and do its worlk, diesel has a slower burn rate than does gasoline; the Chev in-line 6 cylinders that I drove had a compression r
    atio of 8.5 to 1; I down-sized the main metering jet; plus another thing that I did, the entire operation didn’t require more than an hour and a half; I improved my gasoline mileage by 30% over the factory delivery; I could get to 110 MPH in 7 tenths of a mile, that was fast enough for me, I didn’t want a tire to blow at the speeds that I was driving, the tires would be replaced once I got down to a quarter inch of tread. I had more than enough power to get me from point A to point B with exceptionally good gas mileage for the weight of the vehicle. When I say that 150 to 200 miles per Imp. gallon of gasoline are there I’m not kidding. You wouldn’t believe how simple an engine can be. The technology is there and I know where to get it. The engine that I propose would be substantially less costly to manufacture and operate. Burn the gasoline in the combustion chamber, not in the catalytic converter, get more work out of the BTU’s by reducing those going to waste into the environment. A diesel specialist told me that he could cut a cubic mm. of diesel into 50 injections, at 26000 psi. injection pressure you get the vaporization to get a clean burn; the same can be the case with gasoline. I have some of the parts for the engine at a machine shop, other parts are wherever, it’s an engine that is so simple that there are no blueprints; the way they did it in the good old days. The only guy that has made any money out of the hyrdogen economy is a guy named Ballard; it’s years ago that he was driving a hydrogen bus around Vancouver, Chicago, and wherever else. I once had a Chrysler product, a Fargo truck, when they still had 6 volt electrical systems; they were notorious for being hard to start, I took it to the garage and told the mechanic that we would change everything to 12 volts other than the starter; he told me that it wouldn’t work; I told him that it was my money, the total cost was a few dollars short of 100 dollars, we left the 6 volt starter in place as well as the heater; I had no more starting problems, the second time that the crankshaft came around the engine was running; 13 years later that 6 volt starter was still cranking the engine, and the heater heating the cab. Gasoline is still the way to go; one can more than double the gasoline mileage of the current vehicles on the market; my proto-type is crude, not a production product, in as little as 4 to 6 weeks the assembly could be completed, ready for the dynamometer, check out it’s CO2 output. Over my lifetime I have operated a variety of equipment with a variety of engines, most of which had a quirk of some sort, once you figured it out you fixed it, lived with it, or you got rid of the bummer; each situation was a hands on learning experience; there have been a lot of people in the manufacture of the internal combustion engine over the course of my lifetime; I’ve been there for the evolution of the internal combustion engine. Go to a magazine stand and you can pick up numerous magazines advertising numerous means by which to increase the horsepower; the Chev. in-line 6 cylinder had all the horsepower that I ever needed. It’s time for the world to slow down. That hydrogen highway is so far fetched that I can’t believe that anybody with a university education to be buying into it. As already noted, I can’t get my head around the alchemy of getting 3.25 kg’s. of CO2 thereabouts out of one kg. of gasoline. My intellectual knowhow has to be worth something. THAT HYDROGEN HIGHWAY WOULD BE AWESOME INDEED. Your sure that there would be no oxides coming out of the exhaust pipe?? ???? How about nitrogen oxides?? ???? Get the magazine; ENGINE MASTERS, the spring 2007 issue; Who needs 1060 horse power?

  81. nmanhipot - August 27, 2007

    Would you mind explaining to me how buying carbon credits will help the environment? If I’m Al Gore and I have a house that uses 20-something times the amount of energy as the average American energy hog’s house, I jet around the world and am driven around the country in an armored motorcade and then make a mega-bucks donation to eco-friendly endeavors, how am I saving the planet from global warming?
    As for me, I ride my bicycle to work and in the past 8-months I have OFFSET 233.913 gallons of petrol and 4576.28 pounds of CO2. So who’s doing the real offsetting here, me or Al? And, yes, I’m accurate to 6 digits because I care.

  82. Sam Schock - September 10, 2007

    Further to the greenhouse debate. I wasted three hours at the Calgary main library; they didn’t have as much information as I have at home. In 1963 I flew east; Regina to Winnipeg was the prop job Vanguard; at Winnipeg I boarded one of Air Canada’s DC8’s the jet-powered job; there was a one hour delay because they had to change the starter on one of the engines; when we finally did get under way we went to the end of the runway, they set the brakes and powered up the engines, all four; when they released the brakes there was no way that I was going to get out of the seat because of the G-forces; within 400 yards we were off the ground, and the nose was up until we leveled off at 41,000 ft.; we were above the clouds, and the sunlight was the brightest that I’ve ever seen, the top of the clouds were the whitest that one will ever see; I wouldn’t think of even attempting a glance at the sun for fear of eye damage. What’s my point? I didn’t see no greenhouse cover. The flight crew did give us the outside temperature; which I can’t recall, other than that it was cold, cold, cold. One reference notes that the ozone zone is from 6.2 miles to 50 miles altitude, it is densest at altitudes of 13 to 16 miles, [21 to 26 km]. We were at an altitude of 7.75 miles, which had us in the ozone zone; those four jet engines were ingesting quite a cocktail of ozone, and nitrogen oxides are not ozone friendly; and the jet engines put out lots of nitrogen oxides. The literature notes that, “airline pilots prefer to fly in the stratosphere to avoid weather disturbances in the troposphere. The stratosphere usualy has a lower layer of nearly steady temperature and an upper layer in which temperature increase with altitude. The temperature of the lower layer is about minus 67 degrees F, [minus 55 degrees C]. The temperature of the upper layer increases to about 28 degrees F, [minus 2 degrees C] at the top of the stratosphere. The stratosphere contains most of the atmospheres ozone. Ozone heats the air by absorbing the sun’s ultraviolet rays.” We were at 41,000 ft. and had to belt up for a time because of air turbulence; so, how high are they flying? “The mesosphere extends from the stratopause to about 50 miles, [80 kilometers] above the earth.The temperature of the mesosphere decreases with altitude.The lowest temperature in the earth’s atmosphere occur at the top of the mesosphere, called the mesopause. At the mesopause over the poles, the air temperature as low as minus 171 degrees F, [minus 113 degrees C] during the summer. Trails of hot gasses left by the meteors can be seen in the mesosphere. Extremely strong wind bow in this layer.” We arrived at Toronto on schedule, at one time the ground speed was reported at 730 MPH. I should note that we were flying light; the passenger load would have been 12 to 15 %. NOW, lets go back to the days of atmospheric nuclear tests; the Americans and the French did extensive nuclear atmospheric tests in the southern hemisphere where we have the larger ozone hole; The USSR did their nuclear tests in the northern hemisphere where we have a smaller ozone hole because of a lesser number of tests. Because of the worldwide fallout of strontium 90 and cesium, the two superpowers of the time implemented the Atmospheric Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that scientists dicovered the ozone holes, after the atmospheric nuclear tests. I, can only presume that the atmospheric nuclear tests put the holes in the ozone layer. I have no idea as to how many space launches there have been; I would expect that by now it would number in the thousands; and everytime that a space launch goes through the ozone layer, it is taking out some of the ozone protection of planet earth. Carl Rutan launched a space vehicle to a height of 62 miles, well through the ozone layer resulting in ozone depletion; and there is talk of making it an entertainment event; a thrill seekers business. Has man taken leave of his senses? My literature shows nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide at a specfic gravity greater than 1.5 at the atmospheric pressure of 14.7 psia., and a temperature of 68 Fahrenheit, relative to 1 for air under the same conditions; which would tend to keep it at ground level; not up there, wherever. A news item had the scientists predicting that in fifty years there would be half the polar bears than at present; I have news for you, this world will be much different from that which we have today. The Holy Bible is the worlds greatest text book; the worlds greatest teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ tells us that but for his intervention on behalf of the ellect; “And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened;” which no doubt includes the polar bears, the elephants, the human species, and whatever else. The human species, a supposed evolution of the ape family, has by now invented the means and mechanisms by which all life on planet earth can be terminated. The last time I checked the apes were still apes and doing their thing. To this point, nothing on BTU’s. When we eat more calories, [BTU’s], than required to keep us alive we have to work them off or they are stored as fat; obviously much of our society is over-indulging, gluttonous, eating to much. All our lives we exhale carbon dioxide and radiate the BTU’s that we do not require. Once we went mechanical we overwhelmed the environment with BTU’s and when it goes on for 24/7 for decades we have global warming. Combine our output of BTU’s with the ongoing destruction of the ozone-layer and we get; GLOBAL WARMING, IT’S GOING TO GET HOT, HOT, HOT. It’s time for the scientists to take a look at something other than the GREENHOUSE SONG BOOK, it’s to simplistic. Carbon dioixide is the end product of the production of BTU’s; if we all went to bed AS we were meant to, turned out the lights; we would be cutting back on GLOBAL WARMING. One need not be a scientist or engineer with a Ph.D to figure out the problem; this is something a high school graduate should be able to figure out. I believe that I have contributed all that I’m going to contribute to the GREENHOUSE DEBATE; if carbon dioxide is part of the equation it is minimal relative to the other factors pointed out. If you don’t ground the aircraft industry, GOD WILL; and that could be soon. ADIOS AMIGOS.

  83. Braven - September 18, 2007

    I’m writing a paper for my critical thinking class and would like to use a comment you made about the CO2 produced by 1 gallon of gas being enough to fill the cargo capacity of 2 Ford Explorers. Would you allow this?
    Also I’ve searched the site and can not find a bio on you. If I may be so bold, what are your credentials? Please be so kind as to copy any return message to my email address above. I’m not so sure I’ll remember to check your site again in-time.
    Thank you.

  84. Adam Stein - September 18, 2007

    Hi Braven,
    We can’t actually copyright facts of nature, so you’re free to use the tidbit about the Ford Explorers, and you don’t even have to credit us.
    I have no credentials to speak of, but I can eat 50 eggs in less than an hour.
    – Adam

  85. Steve - September 19, 2007

    Yes, Adam, but did you stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night?

  86. jake - October 26, 2007

    GLOBAL DIMMING. The basics are that pollution particles (like ash and soot), from smokestacks, tailpipes, ect. are Combining with water vapor to create “polluted clouds.” These “polluted clouds” reflect back out a larger portion of the initial sun light (more than 10%) than regular clouds. This means that less sun light is hitting the earth and thus less heat being trapped by the greenhouse effect. This is important because global dimming is lessening the impact of global warming, meaning that the global warming could already be much worse as a latent effect then we know. I was wondering if you agreed or had anything to add?

  87. Adam Stein - October 26, 2007

    Hi Jake,
    Global dimming is a well-known phenomenon. One of the ironic consequences of recent successful efforts to curb air pollution is that global dimming has been reduced, which has made the effects of global warming more pronounced.

  88. EDDY - November 26, 2007

    Dear Sir,I just came across your web site, I am facinated by the complex nature of the questions and answers on the subject of global warming. A question was asked by Eric item 52, he asked if you knew of any one who has carried out an experiment of physically weighing and testing a gallon of gas whilst being used by a vehicle, seems simple enough, but I have never seen a response to it.If anyone of your readers have any info on this I would be gratefull.

  89. Adam Stein - November 26, 2007

    I’m not really sure, although this isn’t the type of thing that would be published research. There’s not much of a need to perform this experiment. You can compute the weight of the gas quite accurately from first principles. Don’t be misled by my rough math — it’s possible to get a detailed answer to this question without setting anything on fire.

  90. eddy - December 4, 2007

    Dear Adam, thanks for your reply to item 88, although it was not the answer I was looking for.Sixty years ago,as a student in high school,I was always taught that in Chemical experiments you had to Prove your answer, this was usually acomplished in the Lab with beakers. bunsen burners, scales ect. So until I read of someone physically doing this I remain skeptical. The one flaw in your expanation is that you add the weight of an existing element i.e. oxygen to give you this claim of increasing the weight of CO2 by over 3 times the original weight of the original gasoline. This brings me to another matter concerning CO2, ITS SPECIFIC GRAVITY,IS ONE AND A HALF TIMES THAT OF AIR,therefore using the law of gravity it must come down not up.I asked each of my grandchildren ( 8 ) all very bright, well educated, what there understanding of global warming was. they all had almost the same answer. That thro the useage of fossil fuels this created a pollution, this pollution then went up into the atmospere creating an insulating blanket around the earth, thus causing the earth to gradually get warmer.This explanation is also held by the majority of most people I know.Sounds logical, but as a thinking person, I just can not except it. Having proof that CO2 is heavier than air, this makes it physiclly impossible to form an invible blanket in the atmoshere, and down it comes, where it is absorbed by trees.plants,grasslands,and oceans.Without this action our planet could not exist to sustain mankind.Oh sure the pollution is a very bad thing and should be cleaned up as soon as possible but is this really the cause of global warming? this planet of ours has been in existance for about four and a half billion years, has gone thro many freezing and warming periods in its history. Iam glad that it is on a warming period at this time,because right where I am living in the beautifull Fraser Valley in Canada used to be a flowing glacier 20,000 years ago. If the earth had not warmed up you and I would not be haveing this discussion. Mankind has only been around for about 10,000 years, this is less than blink of an eyelid as far as the earth is concerned, but to us who only get to live about 80 of these years the same as an average tree,we are so egotisticall that we believe in our mere 1000 years of seriously polluting the planet that we are the cause of changing its system is beyond belief. If we got together as we are doing in Bali and focused on things that we can do something about like erradicating diseases, hunger , poverty, this to me is far more pressing a need and can be done, as for the use of fossil fuels, until Detroit,Tokyo,and Bonn, are pressured into changing their car designs by the rest of the world, and particually by their own goverments,then we will still use them for another 100 years, oh,I forgot we will not be around by then. Thanks, Eddy.

  91. Adam Stein - December 4, 2007

    What is it about this topic that draws out the cranks? There really just couldn’t be a less controversial statement than “burning six pounds of gasoline creates roughly 18 pounds of CO2.” It’s just a simple math problem. And yet it’s like catnip to a certain sort of person who prefers his own reality.
    Anyhow, I hadn’t realized that it’s physically impossible for CO2 to remain in our atmosphere. This does seem like a rather dramatic development, and I look forward to the chagrined apology that will shortly issue forth from…every scientist in the world.
    In the meantime, TerraPass will henceforth give up carbon offsets and instead begin selling our own line of gourmet jams and jellies.

  92. eddy - December 4, 2007

    In answer to Anon who obviously has not read the “dinner party ‘ rules. I did not infer that no CO2 exists in the atmosphere, the last figure I read was 357ppm, this is a constant. What I was refering to is that despite the tremendous tonnage pouring into the atmosphere each ,and every hour of everday that figure is constant. NASA has coducted tests from ground zero to 20000 ft with the same results 357ppm. so where is it going? A team of British scientists last week anounced that the oceans of the world has absorbed over 50% of all co2,they claim that after it filters its way thro the placton on the surface ,it eventually ends up thousands of feet below on the oceans floor , where after all it began its cycle millions of years ago.So Anon if you have any other explanation I would love to hear it.As for TERRAPASS selling jams and jellies maybe they should, Ithink they would make more money than trying to sell crbon offsets, by the way I have a great deal on a brige in Brooklyn7

  93. Adam Stein - December 4, 2007

    357 ppm is a constant? Please Google for the Keeling Curve. Or just read my post on it here. CO2 levels are the farthest thing from constant.
    Seriously, I appreciate that you’re interested in this topic. There are lots of good references online if you want to learn about the mechanisms of global warming.
    You’re not going to get very far trying to debunk climate science. It’s a complex discipline based on mountains of empirical data, as well as a large number of mathematical models. It’s really interesting stuff, and I recommend making an honest effort to understand it. You’ll be rewarded.

  94. zeeboid - December 11, 2007

    [Deleted for general stupidity. Mars and Venus are not experiencing global warming.]

  95. tes - January 17, 2008

    I would like a very fundamental question answered about the 6lbs of gasoline producing 20 lbs of CO2. If the weight of the carbon is greater than the weight of the gasoline and you placed both on a balaning scale, i.e, take one gallon of gas and put it on the scale, burn another gallon of gas and burn it, capture the weight produced, and place it on the other end of the scale. Using simply gravity, in theory, the captured carbon should weight down the gallon of gasoline. This should create an infinite source of energy using the power of gravity. So far, no one has produced this result, therefore, I wonder what is else happens to the twenty pounds of CO2 produced that is not explained mathematically. I am no expert in this field of study and mostly a humble (or ignorant) lay person!

  96. RAS - February 3, 2008

    I have a question about the 6 pounds that you use. If you convert directly as you state I see how you came up with the numbers. My question is when you use 6LB it is the pounds-FORCE. I think Usually when you talk about gasses you want to use POUNDS-MASS. So when going from 6 to 20 it looks good when you say it.
    Also the maximum percentage of CO2 that can be created from burning is about 2% of the atmosphere. Air is 20.8-9% O2 and when you get below 19% the self sustaining combustion is harder to maintain. With this if you took a container with the Entire Atmosthere was 100% CO2 you should be able to duplicate the global warming with an experiment.

  97. tes - February 8, 2008

    The conversion of a gallon of fuel (6 pounds) to 20 pounds CO2 now makes sense to me.(see comment above) The conversion of the liquid to a gas is Mass weight in both the liquid and the gas. Pounds force as in comment 96 is irrevelent. The higher CO2 weight from the 6 pounds of fuel is the result of a huge amount of existing oxegen being absorbed in the burning process of the liquid. It is clear and proving imposible that one can not artificially increase Mass weight. It is the mixture of vast quantities of oxegen added to the burned liquid that creates the higher weight.

  98. Jay H - March 8, 2008

    I’ve read this post with interest, amusement and concern. It is fascinating how a subject such as this quickly becomes an emotional one for all involved. It also seems that there is a great cross section of society here, from the self educated, highly educated and over educated to a few who obviously consider themselves to be among the elite.
    The pity is that in an effort to keep focus on the latest buzzwords (carbon footprint, emission reduction etc, etc ad nauseum, ad infinitum) other parts of the equation are being ignored or deleted.
    Yes mars is experiencing a planetary temperature increase…
    [Ed. — So I guess you’re proposing that climate change on earth is being caused by gigantic global dust storms?]
    Yes, the sun is increasing its output….
    [Yep. And the sun has been ruled out as the source of the forcings causing current temperature changes on earth.]
    and yes the earth’s temperature has risen a degree (or more, depending upon your source.)
    Vikings once farmed greenland…
    The notion of buying your way out of pollution generated by driving or heating your home is a fallacy akin to a blood sacrifice to the god of ooga booga.
    Discounting warming on other planets is absurd.. you insist that the ONLY reason this planet is changing is due to our carbon emission? hmm smells like sales pitch again.
    [Er…no one ever claimed this, because it’s obviously not true. Why is it that every “skeptic” who trolls our site insists on ascribing statements to environmentalists they never made? Wait, I think I know why…]
    “You�re not going to get very far trying to debunk climate science. It�s a complex discipline based on mountains of empirical data, as well as a large number of mathematical models.”
    In order to truly quantify a problem don’t you have to take as many factors into account as possible?
    I’m not trying to debunk climate science.. and the piece of paper on the wall says I’m reasonably intelligent and educated enough to tell others my conclusions….Stop the hype and sales nonsense..then we may be able to make some actual progress.
    [Another question: why do “skeptics” always like to tell us about their college degrees?]

  99. Don Worley - April 20, 2008

    Re, Post No. 7
    “Regarding your update on water, the important difference between water and carbon dioxide is that the carbon dioxide we add to the atmosphere sticks around for about 100 years�”
    The residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere is not known. It is estimated to be 5 years, more or less. Regardless of that, what is more important is the average water vapor content in the atmosphere over time and the fact that convection carries it as well as CO2 and other warmed gases into the upper troposphere where the heat is dissipated into space. Increased sea surface temperatures result in increased convection. Viola…nature’s thermostat.
    Fear not!

  100. Adam Stein - April 20, 2008

    Hi Don —
    The residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere is much longer than five years. This is a complicated topic, but you’re mixing up the amount of time that it takes for an individual CO2 molecule, on average, to be re-absorbed from the atmosphere, and the amount of time that it takes total concentrations of CO2 to be restored after fossil fuels are burned. The mean lifetime of atmospheric CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels has been estimated at roughly 30,000 years (pdf).
    Unfortunately, increased water vapor is not going to simply carry away all that excess heat.

  101. Dan Luke - May 6, 2008

    Interesting and useful replies, Adam.
    I am attempting to explain to someone the difference between the ephemeral, feedback nature of water vapor vs. the persistent, forcing nature of CO2.
    I have told him that, even though H2O absorbs more IR than CO2, it is CO2 and other persistent GHGs that prevent the atmosphere from progressively-and quickly-cooling to the point that nearly all the H2O precipitates out.
    I have had no luck finding a good mathematical/graphical representation of this special relationship between H2O and the other GHGs. Could you help me by pointing to one?

  102. Adam Stein - May 6, 2008

    Hm. Not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but here’s a one pager from EDF on the subject:

  103. Dan Luke - May 6, 2008

    Not quite, but thanks.
    What I’m looking for is a good explanation of why and how the planet would quickly freeze if all CO2 were removed.
    I’m trying to show this fellow that, in a way, comparing the importance of H2O to that of CO2 in the greenhouse effect is an apples-to-oranges affair.

  104. Adam Stein - May 6, 2008

    Your best bet might be the online History of Climate Change web site:
    See, for example:
    And is also a great resource:
    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t exactly call any of these sources “simple.” But they might lead you to what you’re looking for.

  105. Tony Bright - May 9, 2008

    Personally, I’m still on the fence. Not about the math as it’s close enough for government work as stated.
    However, on the surface, some things appear to be inconsistent.
    First we are told that human activity does little to impact the temperature of the plant, as the solar radiation that hits the planet in a specific unit of time provides a years worth of activity.
    If we accept this and how much greater this contribution is than the heat we generate by burning carbon and splitting atoms, then how can we reject the notion that solar activity is not a major contributor to changes in the temperature of the planet?
    So I guess where that puts me is that I can buy that it’s possible the activity of man makes some changes, but what is the true scope of the changes we make? Is it 1% of climate change and the other 99% are factors totally out of our control, or what?
    Because that is ultimately the question, how much of what is going on is us and how much is natural activity.
    If you look at the scope of man, compared to the scale of the earth and the entire universe, it’s difficult to see where we can have the large an impact.
    I’m not saying it’s impossible. I simply am saying that for not only the average joe, but some pretty intelligent joes out there, it’s hard to see how even billions of these joes can make such drastic changes.
    And now for something completely different, to borrow from Monty Python…
    I’ve been thinking about carbon, photosynthesis and solar energy. What would it take to capture the carbon as well as the water vapor we produce by combusting carbon laden materials and use the vast solar energy to turn that CO2 back into fuels we could use.
    The benefits of doing something like this would mean we would be “recycling” carbon that is already liberated, keeping it from entering the atmosphere again and/or scrubbing carbon already in the atmopshere, we would reduce or eliminate our search for more carbon based fuels, and we would be able to store this energy in what has proven to be a pretty convenient, energy dense format.
    While I think electric cars, or the Mr Fusion from back to the future would be really cool, I don’t think we can match the cost effective, energy dense fuels hydrocarbons offer.
    The reality is the marketplace is going to seek the energy solution that provides the biggest bang for the buck, pardon the pun.
    These other technologies will gain traction as they become more cost effective.
    Right now, a large part of our economy is carbon based, and even the federal government is making tons of money on our dependence on oil. After all, they get $0.18/gallon on gasoline and I believe about $0.24/gallon on diesel fuel. (Don’t ask me if they break even or not on the whole defense build-up to protect our access to oil, I’ve not researched it that deep. I just know that the billions of gallons of fuel add up to billions of dollars in revenue for our federal government and similar windfalls for state governments.)
    So the pessimist in me doesn’t see change any time soon because too many have a vested interest in things remaining just as they are.
    Personally, I do my part by not buying a new car every few years. We have three cars in our home, mine with 221K miles and a 1.6L engine, it’s 14 years old. My wife’s car has a 2.4L engine, it’s 6 years old and has just under 185K miles (she was traveling quite a bit just a year or so ago) and we have the used minivan we purchased that is only used when we are all traveling together.
    We take public transportation when it’s economically feasible. With the older cars, the cost/mile to drive is about $0.13/mile and that’s with one or four people in the car. So given that public transportation is actually more expensive in many cases and takes more time, it’s not a smart economic decision.
    Folks are going to make economic decisions for the most part, not environmental decisions. For our family, that means used cars, with relatively small engines (our largest is a 3.0L engine) that typically return 30MPG in highway driving.
    When the Durangos and Excursions are too costly to operate, people are going to try to get out of them. What they will find is that they cannot afford NOT to get out of them. They will either owe more than they’ll get on trade, or no one will want to buy them.
    I still think we are a long way away from that, given the attitudes and relative wealth (or is that credit limits) of most who live around me.
    I’ve begun to ramble, and that’s part of my point. This is a complex issue, that deals not only with science, but economics, public policy, emotional issues and social change.
    I don’t think it’s going to be enough to simply share the facts with folks, that a gallon of gasoline turns into approximate 20# of CO2. That doesn’t matter to the typical family trying to raise their kids, get them to soccer and volleyball and karate, and church and school and a trip to see a baseball game.
    It’s not that folks are not smart. It’s that it’s nearly impossible for people to grasp that there is even an issue. Most folks are just trying to get through today.
    It will take more crisis and/or more economic and political pain for folks to want to change.
    Of course, it’s still a valid question for most, is change really needed? Why can’t we reproduce carbon based fuels using the exhaust gases, water and the energy we get everyday from the sun?
    If we could do that, it seems we could solve many of the issues, regardless of if people believed them to be real or imagined.
    Imagine if a scientist announced that we could produce simple sugars, oxygen and H2O from H20 and CO2 with a man-made photosynthesis process, and then those sugars could not only be used to make foods, but also fuel, that we could drastically reduce our search for carbon in the ground because we could take out the carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere already.
    It’s just a pipe dream of mine, and probably not feasible.
    But if it were…

  106. I'm COLD here in Idaho - May 12, 2008

    We shouldn’t feel guilty about hot showers because what we create with hot showers is not water vapor. Water vapor is invisable so anyone who thinks steam is the same as water vapor is mistaken.

  107. Joe - May 23, 2008

    Hi, I need someone to CHEMICALLY PROVE that id someone drives 500 miles at 12mpg, he will release approx. 800 lbs. of carbon dioxide, i need the whole process to be proven using the density of gasoline, the mass of gasoline, the approx. formula for gasoline, the molecular mass, the lbs of carbon dioxide per mole and a BALANCED COMBUSTION EQUATION. Thanks, you can e-mail me at

  108. Robert Reed - June 8, 2008

    Last year the earth experienced a huge shift in average temperature… the earth actually cooled by 0.6 degrees celsius. This runs counter to the theory that the exponential increase in CO2 is the primary driver of global warming, as the increase has not abated.
    [Ed. — no, it doesn’t. Weather != climate]

  109. Norm - July 12, 2008

    The idea that 6 pounds of gasoline yeilds 20 pounds of CO2 ignores the volume of air included in the process. Fuel/air ratio is about 1 to 15 by volume; how many pounds of air are included to make the 20 pounds of CO2?

  110. Kara - July 15, 2008

    I haven’t been able to read every one of the comments, but it seems that no one is discussing the added 5 to 6 lbs of CO2 per gallon that are estimated to come from the drilling, refining & transport process (to the gas station), before the fuel is even pumped into the final vehicle. This is a serious source of GHG emissions as well. I see so many websites that totally neglect this! I don’t know why.

  111. Grant - August 11, 2008

    All those lbs of CO2 piling up in the atmosphere are weighing heavily on my head. I wish the argument that 6lbs of gas produces 20lbs of CO2 was put in terms that seemed more inclined to be informative rather than sensationalist. I understand the method of coming up with the measure – but when I think about 20lbs of something that essentially weighs nothing (C02), one has to assume a very large volume of it. I don’t see how one can choose to use lbs as a measure of mass without first qualifying that one is working in terms of mass rather than force.

  112. Bill - August 14, 2008

    Reducing atmospheric CO2 by conservation is about like trying to empty a bucket of water by wishing it wouldn’t rain so much. Why not go the direct approach and just start removing the CO2 from the atmosphere?
    Better yet, use the CO2 as the feed stock for carbon, in combination with hydrogen from waste water, to make our own liquid fuels. If we were to do that, we would become a part of the natural carbon / water cycle. The energy required to drive the process could come from solar, wind, hydro and other renewable sources during off peak periods.
    If you think any of this is not reasonable, please check out the Green Freedom proposal from Los Alamos National Labs.

  113. John - December 20, 2008

    It works very well if you omit the fact that matter is converted to energy by combustion. Gasoline and oxygen are not simply “vaporized”

  114. tigeraloha - January 18, 2009

    For one thing, your plan calls for the destruction of the most species-diverse eco-system on the planet. There are still innumerable species of plants, fungi, etc in the Amazon that may reveal compounds that may cure diseases like HIV and cancer.

  115. tigeraloha - January 18, 2009

    Just to put it out there, grass sequesters MUCH more carbon per acre than do trees.

  116. Jim - February 27, 2009

    The bottom line is that 97% of the carbon dioxide is produced naturally,mostly from the oceans.Man’s input has little or no effect on global warming, which reached a peak in 1998 and has been steady or cooling since then. Last year was the coolest since 2002. These actual temperatures deviate significantly from what the climate models are predicting. The models are not well suited for long range climate predictions. The don’t take into account cloud cover, ocean currents and sunspot cycles. The whole theory of global warming is full of holes.

  117. Adam Stein - February 27, 2009

    Well said, Jim. Your Nobel Prize awaits you.

  118. Don Browning - March 1, 2009

    If we say we add to the weight of the fuel burned from about 6 lbs to about 20 lbs of co2, then we must say we get credit for about 14 lbs of oxygen. What ever the impact of less oxygen is I am not sure.
    A more accurate statement would be that about 6 lbs of carbon in gas is joined with about 14 lbs of oxygen in the air to create about 20 lbs of co2. At least that seem more accurate to me.
    Total weight increase is a bit misleading in that it looks like we are creating mater with combustion in total weight.

  119. Don Browning - March 1, 2009

    The total carbon released in the clear cutting and manufacture, transportation fuels used etc, would likely exceed the total carbon capture of the young trees. Or so it would seem.
    Don Browning

  120. Aubrey Yates - April 5, 2009

    “…when we create carbon dioxide, which warms the atmosphere, which warms the oceans, which creates more water vapor, which warms the atmosphere

  121. Adam Stein - April 5, 2009

    Because there’s a difference between the natural carbon cycle and fossil fuel consumption. Full explanation here, but in brief, living organisms are constantly shifting carbon back and forth between the atmosphere and biomass, resulting in no net gain of CO2. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are buried under ground, and when we dig them up, we’re adding to the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
    I’m curious. Did you really suppose scientists hadn’t considered this issue?

  122. Shooter - April 6, 2009

    The idea that turning a gallon of high test into CO2 is bad, is the silliest thing I’v read in a long time!
    Because CO2 is a very minor green house gas, and contributes nearly NOTHING to global warming, when compaired to water vapor, which is both thousands of times more plentifull and very much more efficiant we need to stop using small cars and all drive big SUVs and Hot Rod, 9 Liter, Big Block, 215 MPH Camaros like mine!
    If you were to check with any competent agrerian scientist they would tell you plants grow better, bigger and faster when it’s hot and we would have much less starvation if it was much warmer.
    As to the ice melting, who cares?
    [Ed. — This post is just catnip for weirdos. What gives?]

  123. Aubrey G. Yates - April 7, 2009

    Yes, of course I considered that and, in fact, already knew the answer you offered plus several more. I was merely pointing out that the author of the original message described a classic positive feedback loop minus any of the countervailing negative loops. An overemphasis on positive loops while ignoring the negative loops is the generic reason for bubbles of all sorts: housing prices, financial panics, political anomalies and unreasonable belief in “scientific” absurdities.

  124. Adam Stein - April 7, 2009

    But…your comment had nothing to do with feedback loops. It was just a piece of nonsense about people breathing. Hang on, are you one of those crazy people who likes to post here? Tell us a story about ultra-violet rays!

  125. Don Browning - April 7, 2009

    The key to CO2 is that it likely does have an impact on the greenhouse effect.
    More importantly I believe, as a result of all the discussion, a new awareness is coming forward concerning the use of electricity generation, and other carbon based fuel sources. Some think that an electric car is a Zero CO2 foot print, when in fact the generation plant supplying power to the plug- in is a prime source of CO2 at many stages of power generation.
    Can anyone supply a ratio of CO2 from power plant, mining, delivery, generation, transmission and use, compared to pumping, refining, delivery and use in an auto of carbon based fuel? I suspect electric is the lesser in total CO2 per passenger mile.
    It is great that so many people are thinking!

  126. Shooter - April 7, 2009

    The origional post said nothing about feedback loops! What it did say was that burning a gallon of gasoline made 20 pounds of CO2! The implication was that this was some how a bad thing! When in reality, more CO2 is good for the environment because it helps the plants grow and with dozzens of millions of children starving every year, plants need all the help they can get! This entire line of thought is related to the great global warming swindle and needs to be opposed when ever rational people find it! The warmer it gets the better off we will be and the fewer people will starve.

  127. Aubrey G. Yates - April 7, 2009

    I’ll try my apogogical argument one more time. Consider, if you will, a little thought experiment (or do it in actuality, if you like – it’s not like trying to confirm special relativity):
    1. Take two cans of ice cold diet Coke, and
    2. Set both on the table, one out in the open, the other in a bucket of ice, and
    3. Open both at the same time, and
    4. Wait several hours, taking care to replenish the ice so the cold coke remains at the temperature of melting ice, and
    5. Taste both at the end of the day long waiting period, and
    6. Make a note of which one was flat and which one still had the “tang” of carbonation.
    Pick your conclusion:
    a. The dissolved CO2 escaped from the warm coke as it increased to room temperature because the higher the temperature of a solution, the less of a solute it can maintain, or
    b. The escaping CO2 captured the heat from the sunlight coming through the window and caused the room to heat.
    Notice that conclusion (b) may be drawn regardless of whether the temperature in the room actually increased or even if it decreased. You simply change your language from “Room Warming” to “Room Temperature Change” and keep on arguing. Global temperatures have been declining for the last decade but that has caused only a semantic shift from “global warming” to “global climate change”
    Lest you consider this argument perversely silly, study carefully the earth’s temperature record vs the atmospheric CO2 concentration. You will notice a very slight lag. The temperature rise precedes the CO2 rise, it does not follow it. This suggests that, as the oceans warm, the dissolved CO2 seeks a solute of lower concentration – i.e. the atmosphere. Now, what can be driving the oceanic/atmospheric CO2 balance? Certainly not your SUV. If the primitive positive loop described in the post which originally got me involved is causing it, the temperature would increase after the CO2 rise, not before. In short, we have an extremely complex phenomona that no one really understands. To base prediction of long term trends on short term movements in temperature (and recorded temperature for the last 200 years is, in geologic scale, comparable to the flash from your disposable camera) is like a stock analyst projecting a constantly rising stock market. And, friends, movements in stock prices are simple compared to planetary wide weather patterns. To observe the fact that the weather changes and conclude that we must give enormous power to politicians to control minute aspects of our lives frankly fails the most important experiment of all – the smell test.
    Personally, I think we should do as the French have done – go almost 90% nuclear. I have no problem with carbon based technology but I do live near refineries and they do smell (speaking of smell tests).

  128. Adam Stein - April 8, 2009

    And here’s a thought experiment for to try:
    1. Take two cans of ice cold diet Coke, and
    2. Open one and pour it over ice. Add a twist of lime and sip it slowly.
    3. While sipping, call the IPCC, and see whether researchers are aware of the historical lag between temperatures and carbon levels. See whether this fact causes their heads to explode, or in fact makes perfect sense given what we know about the climate system.
    4. Open second Coke and pour it into your pants.
    5. Leave rambling comment on someone’s blog.
    The climate system is not like the stock market. You are arguing science with flawed analogy. Your argument is dumb. You are dumb. QED.

  129. WantsTheTruth - May 18, 2009

    There is a simple issue with the math that I must question. The oxygen had weight before it was bonded. So the total weight has not increased to triple the original as implied.

  130. Adam Stein - May 18, 2009

    Yes, mass is conserved. We’re not proposing any updates to the laws of physics. The point is just that the gasoline is only one input into the final product (CO2), and makes up about a third of the total weight. This explains the seeming mystery of why CO2 weighs more than gasoline.

  131. Anonymous - May 27, 2009

    So basically we are expected to weigh something in the air that was alread in the air? You can not creat matter nor destroy it. It only changes forms. So if you weigh the O2 then add carbon to it you do not gain 60% more matter you simply add 30 % to what you already had.

  132. DONALD BROWNING - May 27, 2009

    Do we not lose some weight in the energy turned into heat. Some of the mass must be heat after combustion. Is that correct?

  133. Adam Stein - May 27, 2009

    Er…I give up?
    The question posed is why the carbon dioxide created from burning gasoline weighs more than the gasoline itself. The answer is that the carbon dioxide also includes a lot of oxygen from the air. Very simple. It’s just a little chemistry problem.

  134. Adam Stein - May 27, 2009

    Hi Don,
    No, mass is not destroyed during combustion. The heat comes from energy released when the chemical bonds in the gasoline are broken.
    For a very crude analogy, imagine compressed springs jumping out of a can, like the children’s toy. The energy contained in the springs is released when the can is opened, but the springs weigh the same before and after. Likewise, the chemical bonds in gasoline release their energy, but the chemicals themselves still weigh the same.
    – Adam
    P.S. You can convert mass into heat under some circumstances, but the result is nuclear energy.

  135. DONALD BROWNING - May 28, 2009

    Thanks, you make sense. It is interesting how mass and energy link in nuclear energy and chemical bonding.
    I am not a scientist, however I enjoy thinking about the bonding of sub atomic particles and the bonding or repelling, of large objects in the universe. Seems a joy to follow great thinkers as they ponder forces holding or repelling mass and energy.
    Dark mass and or energy, pushing and pulling, time and space warped, energy holding quarks in place. All lots of fun. I am attempting to link you thinkers with todays children through education.
    Developed a fun program to increase potential for todays children.
    Thanks for the thinking.

  136. Richard Panek, genius - May 28, 2009

    All this micro-talk and nothing I read speaks of “global-talk”. Basic HS Chem;
    Atmosphere (at sea level), 78% Nitrogen, 21% Oxygen. The remaining 1% is reserved for all other known gases!
    Somewhere in that 1% resides all of CO2. Most of it is near Tampa, Florida.
    Fact – 97% of all CO2 around this planet comes from sources other than mankind.
    Fact – I dress in styrofoam pants
    Fact – That leaves 3% due to mankind’s polution.
    Fact – Judy Garland visits me most Saturdays
    Fact – 2 to 3% of that gas is scrubbed out of the atmosphere before entering the area noted for O3. And that is done within a week.
    Therefore, 3% of 3% of CO2 is caused by man.
    Fact, at the elevation where O3’s aids mankind from deadly radiation, the atmosphere is approximately 1 to 2% of same density as sea level. That relates to a significant reduction in space between each molecule, such that interaction is severely compromised. Very few spiders can survive under those conditions. p.s. these molecules don’t go looking for each other, they randomly bump into each other. (assuming 100% homogeity). I met my wife in a similar fashion.
    Fact, I can travel through time.
    So, take your 20 lbs and divide by 0.05%(benefit of the doubt relationship of CO2 to all other gases) and then divide by 0.03 and then divide by 0.03 and then divide by 0.02. Then multiply by pi. Then add eight tablespoons of rendered bacon fat.
    That’s the amount of CO2 that would represent a world with 100% CO2 per gallon of gasoline.
    Of course, with 100% CO2 to start with, there would be no combustion.
    Speaking of 100% CO2, didn’t someone estimate that the Earth was void of oxygen back in the far past? Hmmmm, I wonder how many Hummers were running a few 10 million years ago? The answer is: 63.
    Did anyone realize that the number one cause of global warming is the SUN!
    Does anyone know how to properly capitalize SUN?
    Does anyone know that mankind is on the list of increasing global warming?
    Does anyone know where I put my ointment?
    Does anyone know that mankind is number 10 on that list?
    Does anyone know where the list went?
    Does anyone know that the list is close to being exponential?
    Translation, the Sun is 10,000,000 times more detrimental to global warming that mankind! (that’s a crude estimate, but close enough even if you add or subtract a couple of exponents, either way) Watch out for those solar flares! Here comes one now! Duck!
    StartWorrying about Global Cooling, first. Now that’s a subject worthy of discussion. The planet has had only a couple of global warming episodes. But, look at the reports on how many global coolings its had! I would bet of the higher percentage outcome first before trying to make a killing on the stock market. Oops, I am sorry. I made a mess on the carpet. I would never think that this global warming talk was related to individuals trying to make money off it! That would be ludicrous?!?! (no pun intended) (seriously, I didn’t intend to make a pun. did I make a pun?) (can someone explain the pun to me?) (thank you!)

  137. Ariansmith - June 4, 2009

    Im somewhat of a caveman compared to all you mathematical geniuses and what-not, but no one seems to mention overpopulation in this “scientifically overpopulated” debate.
    I get what you smart types are debating but if you were actually trying to find a solution rather than brow-beat each other over whos data and experience is better, you’d get into the reality that the human population is growing every year and therefore consuming more of the Earths resources. The Earth can only provide so much.
    So lets please add “Overpopulation” into this debate.

  138. Ray Smith - July 29, 2009

    If this crackpot carbon theory is true, why after almost two centuries of massive industrialisation,two world wars in which untold amounts of explosives were expended and a tremendous unstoppable increase in world population have we not drowned in co2years ago?

  139. Adam Stein - July 29, 2009

    Awesome! I had never considered the “untold amounts of explosives” angle before. And this is before we even consider the effects of all those Fourth of July celebrations.
    Help me out, though — you don’t seem to be talking about the theory of global warming per se. Rather, you’re objecting to the notion that burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide at all? Is that right?