Monday, April 28, 2008

Gasoline Prices, Ethanol, and SERVICE?

Ethanol and Gas Mileage.

I drive a pick-up truck. Not a large pick-up and not a small pick-up. I drive a Mid-sized pick-up truck. My truck has a large six-cylinder motor, a v-6. It has more power than I will even need. But, it is there should I have occasion to require it.

My truck is not known for its gas sipping ways. Even with the six-cylinder engine, it really likes gasoline. The only complaint I have about my truck is its thirsty ways.

Recently, when gasoline made one of it’s quantum leaps forward, in per gallon price; I sought out a source of gasoline with a less expensive “per gallon” price. I found it at a station, which is one of a number of stations belonging to an in-state company. It was very soon thereafter that I noticed a drop in my miles per gallon. Not a small drop… a huge drop! (3 miles per gallon, actually.) I continued to watch it over several months and found that that drop in miles per gallon remained consistent.

Then, like a bolt from the blue it hit me…Ethanol! I had read, a number of places, that the use of ethanol would reduce the miles per gallon of the vehicle using it. So, I made a trip back to the service station and I got out of my truck and I walked around the gas pumps looking for a sign, or any indication that there was ethanol present in their gasoline. I saw no such notice anywhere.

On my ride back home, I remembered the one source in the state, which would have the information I sought, the NC Department of Agriculture, more specifically the standards division (the folks who maintain the weights and measures, etc.)

I contacted them, and I learned which service stations is my city sell gasoline with ethanol, and more importantly, I learned the stations that sell gasoline with no ethanol blended in. I also learned that if the gasoline contains 10% or less ethanol, no sign at the pumps is required (at least in NC).

The next time I bought gasoline, I made a point of buying gasoline with no ethanol blended in. I noticed an immediate increase in mileage. I recovered nearly a mile and a half per gallon. Needless to say, I’ll continue buying the ethanol free gasoline as long as it is available.

Now granted, this is MY experiment and MY experience. It was a VERY unscientific experiment, as well. And there is room for all sorts of error. It was a simple exercise that any motorist, in America, can do for himself or herself.

Living just minutes away from an east coast tourist Mecca, and vacation magnet, our gasoline prices are some of the most expensive in the state and this region of the Mid-Atlantic. As a resident, the cost of operating a motor vehicle can be a real drain on the budget at any time, but with the artificial oil “crisis” we are enduring, this time, it behooves one to make the best decision one can when buying gasoline.

As a high school kid in the 1950’s I bought many a gallon of gasoline for 13.9 cents per gallon. That was for regular. Hi-test was 15.9 cents a gallon. In my later high school years I worked as a gas pump jockey and I sold the stuff for those prices and saw drivers nearly swoon when gasoline went up to the stratospheric price of 22.9 cents a gallon with Hi-test at 25.9 cents a gallon. It was horrible!!

Now let me tell you what you got for those godawful high prices! You got your windshield, side windows, and back glass washed and dried, the water level in your radiator checked and added to, if needed. You got your oil checked, your transmission fluid level checked, you fan belt checked, the water levels in your battery checked and topped off, if it needed it, your floorboards swept out, and, at some stations, even the air pressure in your tires was checked. Your DID NOT pump your own gasoline. Not at those high prices! Often the driver never left the comfort of their automobiles. If you were fortunate enough to have an oil company credit card, we took your card from you, went into the station and filled out the required form, and returned your card to you and had you sign the receipt. All this with you never having to leave your car! …. AND… we thanked you for your business!

Hell, folks, I have sold a complete set of four tires, balanced them, and mounted them on the customer’s car for less than the price of a tank of gasoline, alone, today. And you know what??? We called them “Filling Stations” then… not “Service Stations” as we do today. I’ll let you decide which term more accurately applies to which era.

My, how times have changed! Prices have gone up as customer’s expectations have gone down… way down.

So, if you are already feeling poorly after filling up your SUV’s tank this morning, this article should make you feel even worse.

Have a NICE day!


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