When I first heard about the ransomware hack of the Colonial Pipeline, it popped up in my cyber news feed. After a bit of research, in which I realized quickly that my area of the world would run out of gasoline, my wife and I each filled up our vehicles and minimized travel during the week. We watched on the GasBuddy app as station after station ran out of gasoline, with the typical hoarders filling up gas cans like you see above. Luckily, the shortage is essentially over now and life is returning to normal.
My cans were full long before the gas shortage. I have a tractor, wood splitter and wood chipper, all of which required gasoline to run. They will run on regular gasoline, however, I have found that the ethanol in regular gasoline breaks down and damages small engines, particularly the carburetors, so I switched to using ethanol-free fuel. Since the only place that sells ethanol-free fuel near me is out in farm country, I fill up a lot of cans to make the trip worth it.
Probably the largest benefit to ethanol-free fuel is storage. I can easily store fuel for a year without it breaking down. At best with ethanol fuel, you’re looking at 30 days at most. When I saw the gas hoarders filling up, my hope is they realize that gas won’t be good by the end of the month. It’ll sort of still work in your car, but unless you add a stabilizer, it’s going to have water in it.
Which brings up a really good point: why on earth are we still using ethanol? Ethanol has some cleaning benefits for gasoline, in that is dissolves things that gasoline cannot, but with most gasolines having detergents in them anyways, the benefit is pretty minimal. Worse still, ethanol increases deposits on injectors and other components. It gives you plenty of problems, but hasn’t done much to reduce emissions nor wean us off Middle East Oil (only Trump policies do the latter).
Before someone chimes in with “Just use electric!”, let’s point out some flaws. Nobody makes a battery powered wood splitter or wood chipper. While we’re going back to electric garden tractors, they are still pretty pricey. The power in battery tools, while impressive, is not quite there yet. I have an electric and gas chainsaw, and if I’m cutting something over a foot in diameter, the gas chainsaw wins hands down. I have switched over to an electric weed whipper and pole saw, and they are both great. I bet in 5 years that electric outdoor tools will become the norm, but for now, if you need something powerful, you still need a gasoline engine.
If everyone had a 5 gallon gas can with ethanol-free gas, short term disruptions at the pump would cause less hysteria. You can’t do that with E10 gas unless you religiously use that fuel up and refill every month. By continuing to use ethanol, we continue to damage our engines and make us more susceptible to disruptions for little to no environmental gain. Perhaps as we recover from this gasoline shortage, someone will start asking the hard questions about why we’re handicapping ourselves.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.