Introduction: Demonstrating the CO2 Weight of a Gallon of Gasoline

About: Long time bicyclist, bike commuter, bike tourer, recent bike builder/experimenter. I'm an energy consultant for hydro electric, solar and other renewable energy generation.

Fun Earthday Activity that teaches us with muscular exertion.

Or Kinesthetic learning...

It is a powerful demonstration of the potential burden of CO2.

After participants lift the 26 lbs of CO2 for a few seconds.....

Remind them the atmosphere will carry it for hundreds of years until enough plants can capture it and sequester it.

Step 1: Very Fun and Informative Demonstration of the Weight of CO2 Associated With a Single Gallon of Gasoline

This Simple Demonstration has the participants experience the weight of CO2 associated with a single gallon of Gasoline by lifting 4 jugs partially filled with water simulating:

The 6.3 pounds of gasoline in a gallon

Another 14.3 pounds of oxygen that is combusted in the car engine with the Gasoline to make the O2 in CO2

And another 6 pounds of CO2 emissions Upstream of the gas station (drilling, pumping, shipping, refining, and trucking it to the gas station)

Step 2: The Participants Enjoy the Fun Challenge

The challenge has two parts:

1) to understand what each jug is simulating as they lift them one by one ....

2) to physically lift all 26 pounds of simulated CO2 off the ground even for a few seconds.

Step 3: Luckily I Found Super-Heros to Help Lift the Massive CO2 Weight of a Gallon of Gas

This is a very fun Earthday Demo and We provide the calculations in the attached Spreadsheet.

You can do your own research and get more precise answers and simulation results.

We just derived this with a few facts and internet searches.

A gallon of Gas weighs 6.3 lb. A gallon of Water weighs 8.34 lb.

Gasoline is about 84% carbon by Weight so it has 5.4 lb. Carbon

CO2 tailpipe emissions of gasoline combustion is 19.64 lb./gal

(So 14.2 lb. of the 19.64 lb. must be coming from atmospheric O2 combining with the 5.4 lb. of carbon)

Molecular weights: Hydrogen =1, Carbon = 12, Oxygen = 16

Step 4: I Used a Scale to Weigh in the Amounts of Water Into the Simulation Jugs

You can use a scale or measure volumes into the jugs as the spreadsheet provides in quarts and ounces.

Or you can uses your semi calibrated "good" eye to eyeball about where I drew the line on these gallon jugs and make yours at the same places on your gallon jugs.

The Gasoline Jug is to be filled with 6.3 pounds of water (up to that line).

The 2 Oxygen Jugs are each filled with 7.1 pounds of Water representing the O2 in the air combusted with the gasoline in the engine. (I call the Jugs O-One and O-Two (Dr. Seussian reference) :)

The upstream CO2 emissions are coincidentally about the same weight as the gallon of gas itself (~6 lbs.) and a similar mark can be made on the fourth jug for 6 lbs. of Upstream emissions.

( If you want to represent upstream emissions for "Tar Sands" refined gasoline you may need to completely fill the upstream jug and get another pint to go with it. This is because Tar Sands is a sticky difficult to manage resource and there are lots of high emissions in the added steps required.

Step 5: Here a Driver Struggles Shoulder the Responsibility for a Gallon

This can be fun! I use a strap or rope tying the jugs together so first the participant....

1) First lifts just the 6.3 pound gallon of Gasoline....

2) Then they lift higher to pick up the Oxygen that makes CO2 in the engine,

3) Then finally they grapple with the upstream emissions of CO2 that got their precious gallon of gasoline from the oil in the ground to the convenient refined delicate product at their local gas pump.

Step 6: Refinements

You could mark your Gasoline Jug with the 6.3 pound mark and the two sub component marks at 5.4 pounds of Carbon and 0.9 pounds of Hydrogen that primarily make up Gasoline ( Octane Rings are C8 H18 )

You can separate the Upstream emissions into a 6 lb jug for conventional oil exploration, drilling, pumping, shipping, refining, and trucking to the station.

And you can offer an alternative 9 pound upstream emission jug(s) (slightly more than and 8.3 pound gallon jug can hold) to represent the more complex and energy intensive emissions associated with the massive effort involved with scraping forests away and mining tar sands under them and melting the tar off the sand and refining the tar into gasoline etc.

You could add some Orange food coloring to the "Gasoline" jug

You could add some Blue food color to the Oxygen jugs

You could add some Brown (orange plus blue?) color to the ugly upstream process emissions jug