Can petroleum-based fuels be part of the path to cleaner air? Yes. Yes they can.

Back in the old days (1859), when the first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania – what was valuable, and what wasn’t, was a little different than today.  What was wanted – was kerosene, which was used in oil lamps.  What wasn’t – was gasoline.  In fact, the gasoline that was produced (in distilling kerosene), was just dumped.

Then came the car – and all that changed.

The car became the way we got where we wanted to go (sorry, horses) – and gasoline was the fuel that made our cars go.  Last year we used almost 400 million gallons of it.

But today’s gasoline (and other fuels made from petroleum, including kerosene) has changed a lot over the years.  And that change has been in the direction of ever cleaner fuels.

Let’s take a look.

No, not at the cars of the ‘90s, at the numbers.  And since 1990 in the U.S.:

  • Our economy has grown – gross domestic product (GDP) is up 191 percent.
  • Our population has grown – by 28 percent.
  • Our miles driven has grown – up 41 percent.
  • Our energy use has increased – by 16 percent.

But while all that was going on, we’ve seen a big drop in air pollution:

  • The six most common types of air pollution? A 67 percent drop.
  • Ozone levels? Down 31 percent.
  • Sulfur in gasoline? Down 97 percent.
  • Lead in the air? Down to practically zero.

Not surprisingly, that sort of remarkable progress is a group effort.  In addition to the ongoing work of the folks who make our fuels, to make them work cleaner and better – on the automotive side, there’ve been a stream of innovations like the catalytic converter and direct injection engines, along with the use of new materials (often made from petrochemicals) to make cars lighter and more fuel-efficient – and on the regulatory side, rules that have helped move us toward cleaner fuels and cleaner air.

Which means you and your future ride can look forward to even cleaner, better fuels to help you get to wherever that future may take you.

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