Gas Stations Propagate Environmental Injustice. Mobile Fueling Can Help.

Sep 22, 2022 10:00 AM ET
Truck being fueled at a gas station.

At a time when record-high gas prices have become a topic of small talk as common as the weather, few spend much time thinking about the impacts of fueling to anything beyond their wallets. But the American reliance on gas stations has far more significant – and sinister – costs, including directly threatening the growing movement for environmental justice, according to a recent article in Triple Pundit by Ollie Browne, vice president of public policy at Booster.

Referring to a recent study by Johns Hopkins University, which outlines the potential of mobile fueling to mitigate the negative impacts of gas stations by eliminating a significant portion of gas station-related pollution and accelerating the energy transition, Browne shines a light on the unhealthy effects of gas station infrastructure, which disproportionately harm minority and low-income populations.

Across the country, gas stations are polluting communities and leaching chemicals into the environment. This pollution — primarily from surface-level spills and leaks from eroding underground storage tanks (USTs) — affects air quality, compromises groundwater supply and taints soil for decades. Browne notes that most gas stations that dispense one million gallons a year would see annual spillage of 70 to 100 gallons, and that there are more than 550,000 leaking USTs nationwide. These effects are dispersed unequally across our society.

“Black communities are more likely than white communities to be located near facilities that produce hazardous waste, including gas stations,” writes Browne. “Black-majority neighborhoods are more likely to be located near gas stations in particular. For low-income communities, gas stations mean higher pollution, mortality and disease rates.”

A potential solution relies on diminishing reliance on gas stations by switching to a mobile fueling on demand model. Not only does mobile fueling eliminate reliance on gas stations, enabling their removal from communities, it also curbs fleet emissions by up to 14% and expands access to more environmentally friendly sustainable fuels.

As Browne explains, the debate around the energy transition all too often focuses on numbers more than the people involved. But securing an equitable environmental and economic future requires that we build a just clean energy economy.

“This requires many pathways, and mobile fueling offers an important piece of the puzzle,” writes Bronwe. “By reducing pollution and furthering decarbonization, mobile fueling can help drive the transition away from gas stations, leading to healthier communities and a healthier planet.”