Edwin Drake was the first to dig an oil well in 1859, but while he distilled petroleum to make kerosene, he threw away the gasoline that was produced as he could not find a use for it.
Before the end of the century, people began recognizing the value of gasoline. In 1885 the first gas pump was manufactured in Fort Wayne, Indiana. And with the advent of automobiles by the early 1900s, gasoline gained popularity due to its strong combustion properties. By 1920, more than 9 million vehicles were powered by gasoline.
Around 1950s, cars became faster and lead began to be added to gasoline to enhance the engine’s performance. But by the 1970s, the widespread health problems from lead were apparent, and the U.S. began phasing out lead in gasoline. By the 1980s, unleaded gasoline was the new standard.
Since then much research has gone into improving its quality. One such way of cutting down emissions from gasoline and increasing its octane levels, is the addition of ethanol. RBOB is a relatively new blend of unleaded gasoline that is prepared especially so that it is boosted by 10% of ethanol to make it fit for fueling cars.
Where is Gasoline Produced?
Gasoline is produced from crude oil in refineries. A 42 gallon barrel of crude oil will usually yield 19 gallons of gasoline.
Usually, data for gasoline production is not available. Instead, the production of gasoline is measured by crude oil, since gasoline is a derivative of crude oil.
By that measure, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United States are likely to be the largest producers of gasoline.
In the U.S., Texas and Louisiana in the Gulf Coast have the largest number of sophisticated refineries and are hotspots for gasoline production. However, the United States only produces around 40% of the gasoline that it consumes—and hence has to import large quantities of crude oil, which is then refined into gasoline.
How is Gasoline Used (United States)?
The United States is the largest consumer of gasoline in the world, followed by China, Japan and India.
In 2012, the United States consumed around 366 million gallons of gasoline per day—more than one gallon per person per day. The total annual consumption of gasoline in 2012 was 134 billion gallons. With consumption being nearly double the production of gasoline in the country, the U.S. has to import almost 60% of the crude oil it needs to produce gasoline. Historically too, the United States has imported gasoline in large quantities; around 85% of these imports have been for the East Coast.
The reason for this high level of import is clear: gasoline is the number one transport fuel in the U.S. It is responsible for 66% of all the energy used in powering transportation vehicles such as cars, light trucks, fuel boats, etc. The demand for gasoline is specially high during the summer, when consumers drive more.
While gasoline is primarily used in internal combustion engines in cars, it is also being used to power generators, lawn mowers and many household consumer goods. Gasoline also serves as a solvent for paints or grease, and forms a component of several pesticides.