Fuel musings

Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.

Locally, gas jumped ten cents a gallon overnight. That means that in this neck of the woods, its around $3.10 per gallon. A few years ago people were asking what sort of price would it take for Americans to switch to economic vehicles and start being more ‘green’ in terms of fuel consumption. The answer is: a lot more than three bucks a gallon.

Fuel is one of those things that, broadly speaking, you cant really manufacture a good substitute in your garage. (Theres a dissent for biodiesel which does require some components in its manufacture that are pretty hard to do on your own…) You can create power, but not fuel. However, since what we want the fuel for is, usually, to create power. Whats the difference? Semantics, really…. Take a solar panel for example…you can build a setup to generate power, but you cant create the fuel (the big burning mass of hydrogen about eight light-minutes from here.) Wind turbine? You create the power using the fuel (wind). But, as you can see, you don’t create the fuel.

Some developments in the area of bio-fuels looks promising. Vehicles that run on SVO (straight vegetable oil) have been around for a while and I suppose if you’ve got a big enough chunk of land and the means to extract it, you can produce pretty much as much vegetable oil as you want. On the other hand, its that attitude that’s driven up corn prices lately as people see corn as a fuel rather than a food.

Development in the field of electric vehicles interests me greatly because its far easier to come up with your own way to generate electricity than it is to come up with some kind of liquid fuel. Trouble is, the history of electric vehicles has thus far been pretty disappointing although its gotten a shot in the arm lately in terms of development and research…mostly due to people seeing that theres obviously money to be made in the field. There are a few promising developments out there but the big bottleneck is, unsurprisingly, battery technology.

I can’t manufacture my own gasoline, and at this point the vehicle I use runs on the stuff. Best I can do is keep a bunch of it on hand and treated for long-term storage. I usually treat the stuff with a gas preservative (PRI-G is the stuff I use), seal it up in a DOT approved container, and tuck it away in a safe place. I try to rotate it out every year. Havent had any problems yet. Its nice to have an extra bit of gas on hand, esp. if you think how much distance that gas allows you to cover. For example, I usually have enough on hand to give about 500 miles of range under optimum circumstances. Five hundred miles is a nice amount of distance to have between myself and Bad Things.

I started out keeping fuel in the classic metal red ‘Blitz’-brand jerry can. They’re okay, but they have features I don’t like. The venting for pouring fuel sucks (too much ‘glug glug glug’..takes a while to empty a can using a nozzle), the screw-on lid is not captive (and thus can get lost meaning it WILL get lost), and a few other things. However, none of the problems are insurmountable – I’ve taken to using a longneck funnel when fueling rather than slow nozzles. One funnel gets paracorded to each gas can and we’re good to go. The caps can be made captive with a little ingenuity but it’d be nice to have something better.

The plastic Blitz cans are, in my opinion, best saved for lawnmowers and short term storage. First and foremeost problem is that under temperature changes they contract and expand putting pressure on the contents of the can and sometimes forcing it out through the threads in the cap. Extremely ungood. Additionally, fumes just seem to seep through the plastic and you get that gas smell everywhere. Their main advantage is they are cheap. I use them for short trips where I want a few extra gallons in the truck ‘just in case’ but for long term I really don’t like them.

Everyone seems very taken with the military fuel cans (MFC) made by Scepter of Canada. These are a very heavy, robust plastic can. Im sure they have a lot to recommend to them, but I just can’t get past the notion that a plastic fuel container is going to not leak at the threads, not expand/contract excessively, and not stink up the place.

The fuel cans I have become smitten with are the ‘Euro/NATO style’ jerry cans. (Outstanding link to their use and history here)They do require a particular nozzle assembly but if that’s unavailable a funnel will do just fine. They have a captive cap that stays out of the way when pouring, have their own generous venting for pouring, and are usually fairly affordable compared to the other choices. I found a source for them surplus, ordered a few dozen for myself and am in the midst of swapping out my Blitz cans for this type.

How do you keep a gas can in your truck without it walking off? Well, I use a small cable bike lock. It goes through the handles of the can and then through the tie-down bolt at the corner of the truck bed. For things like this I use combination padlocks rather than keyed ones. Never know when you’ll not have a key handy. The nozzle needs to be kept clean so I stick it in a cylindrical plastic carrier usually used for mortar rounds. Protects it, keeps it dry, and keeps it clean so dirt and dust don’t get into the tank with the gas. To be safe, a longneck funnel goes in also ($2 from WalMart for the funnel. Makes it easy to have spares.)

One thought on “Fuel musings

  1. fuel cans

    I do have some of the Nato cans and had some problems with the paint flaking on the inside. I am considering the ‘racing fuel’ cans at the site below. Guys that ride bikes, FWD and buggies in the desert, dunes, and outback swear by them here in sunny hot Arizona. They are designed to empty quickly and seal tightly. Steel is definitely a better material but I wonder if anyone can comment on their experience with these types racing fuel jugs?

    http://pitposse.stores.yahoo.net/vp5gafujug.html

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