Car oilThanks to Senate Bill 778 (SB 778), authored by Senator Ben Allen (Democrat- Santa Barbara), oil standards will soon be raised for California consumers.


This bill requires oil sold within the state of California to meet a level of quality ensuring increased engine protection and lower pollution caused by oil and greenhouse gas emissions. This along with auto recycling will result in less environmental damage.

Additionally, Senator Allen knows that superior oil will lead to better gas mileage, which would impart environmental benefits equivalent to those experienced if a half million vehicles were no longer driving and polluting the air.

Such quality improvements would positively impact both consumer well-being and environmental health.

“By improving motor oil standards, we can save consumers money, improve gas mileage and finally eliminate unsafe oils that can actually damage our cars and trucks,” said Senator Allen.

What is wrong with inferior oil?

According to SB 778 sponsor and Executive Director for Californians Against Waste, Mark Murray, “We’re seeing improvements in fuel efficiency and other clean technologies undermined by ridiculously low standards for motor oil […]. In fact, if you read the fine print on some of the bottles of oil at your local discount stores, you’ll see they’re only safe for engines built before 1930.”

Since lowered gas mileage can be experienced as a result of low-quality motor oil, many Americans are paying between 2-3% more on gasoline than necessary. This difference averages to approximately $45 in extra expenses over the course of a year (accounting for 15,000 miles of annual driving).

Not only does inferior oil cause decreased gas mileage, it also contains hazardous materials that negatively impact more than just vehicle performance. The abundance of toxic compounds in a mere gallon of spent motor oil could lead to the contamination and degraded taste of a million gallons of a community’s drinking water.

Requiring motor oil to last for 10,000 miles of lubrication will drastically lower the total number of oil changes. This will also have positive impacts on individual finances. More importantly, it will have a positive impact on the environment. This is because people recycle only half of the 115 million gallons of motor oil sold annually in the state of California, making this a major source of toxic waste.

Governor Jerry Brown recently went on record with his goal of reducing the amount of petroleum used in vehicles by 50%. This goal is set to be accomplished by 2030. Another state goal for the year 2030 is to reduce the emissions from greenhouse gases to 40% less than it was in 1990. The newly-approved SB 778 will greatly impact the success of both these goals.

Ultimately, SB 778 will require that all motor oil meet the standard of 10,000 miles of lubrication by the year 2018.

The California Senate Committee on Environmental Quality approved SB 778 in mid-2015, sending the bill to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. This bill is supported by various businesses and advocacy groups, including the California Coastal Commission, the Sierra Club of California, and the American Lung Association.