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There were never any "good old days" — they are today, they are tomorrow
confused by CO2 math 
24th-Oct-2006 08:53 am
Lexi in the woods
According to an article in today's Slate on getting around while burning less CO2, "For each gallon of gas your car burns, it releases about 19 pounds of carbon dioxide."

According to the Santa Cruz Public Libraries Ready Reference File page Weight of One Gallon (U.S.) of Water, Gasoline, and Ethanol, "1 gallon of gasoline equals 5.8 to 6.5 lbs."

I don't understand this — how can burning roughly six pounds of gas produce three times that weight in carbon dioxide? How does this not count as creating something from nothing (which sounds much like a perpetual-motion machine to me)?

If anyone can explain this or point me to a source that explains it, I'd be most appreciative.
24th-Oct-2006 04:09 pm (UTC)
One Carbon-14 bonds with two Oxygen-16s to create CO2 with an AMU of 46.

Basically the CO2 is picking up 70% of its mass from atmospheric oxygen.
24th-Oct-2006 04:19 pm (UTC)
ps; Good on you for being environmentally concerned but also being able to look at pro-environment media and say "hey, those numbers don't jibe".
24th-Oct-2006 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thanks — that sounds reasonable.

It almost makes me wish I'd taken chemistry instead of physics back in high school.
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