Frequently Asked Questions

How much carbon dioxide is produced from burning gasoline and diesel fuel?

EIA estimates that U.S. motor gasoline and diesel (distillate) fuel consumption for transportation in 2016 resulted in the emission of about 1,102 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 437 million metric tons of CO2, respectively, for a total of 1,540 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equal to 82% of total U.S. transportation sector CO2 emissions and equal to 30% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2016.1

Under international agreement, CO2 emissions from the combustion of biomass or biofuels are not included in national greenhouse gas emissions inventories.2

Most of the retail gasoline now sold in the United States contains about 10% fuel ethanol by volume. A motor gasoline blend of 10% fuel ethanol and 90% gasoline (by volume) is known as E10 gasoline. Fuel ethanol contains a denaturant that is added to ethanol to make fuel ethanol unfit for human consumption. Federal law requires that fuel ethanol contain at least 2% denaturant by volume, but the actual amount in fuel ethanol may be higher. The amount of CO2 resulting from combustion of fuel ethanol denaturants is about the same as the amount of CO2 that results from the combustion of an equal volume of pure gasoline.

About 19.6 pounds of CO2 are produced from burning a gallon of gasoline that does not contain fuel ethanol. About 12.7 pounds of CO2 are produced when a gallon of pure ethanol is combusted.

Burning a gallon of E10 produces about 17.6 pounds of CO2 that is emitted from the fossil fuel content. If the CO2 emissions from ethanol combustion are included, then about 18.9 pounds of CO2 are produced when a gallon of E10 is combusted.

About 22.4 pounds of CO2 are produced from burning a gallon of diesel fuel. Biodiesel fuel can be purchased in many states. Biodiesel fuel is sold with various amounts of biodiesel content. B20 is a commonly sold biodiesel fuel. B20 contains 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel fuel. Burning a gallon of B20 results in the emission of about 17.9 pounds of CO2 that is emitted from the fossil fuel content.


1 As of April 25, 2017; preliminary estimates.
Monthly Energy Review, Environment, Section note.

Learn more:
What are the greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions factors for fuels and electricity?
Historical U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions by source (fuel type) and sector
Historical data on U.S. ethanol and biodiesel production and consumption (Tables 10.3 and 10.4)
Metric conversion factors

Last updated: May 19, 2017


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