Sibling Rivalry — A Revealing Factoid About Oil Versus Alcohol

Alcohol was the original fuel for cars. And the oil companies have been alcohol's biggest competition. Because gasoline has a low octane rating, it was suggested way back in the early 1900s that ethanol (which has a naturally high octane rating) could be added to gasoline to boost the octane.

But the oil industry resisted the idea. Like an irrational sibling rivalry, the oil companies would use anything rather than validate the usefulness of their biggest competitor.

So they added lead to gasoline, and used it for a long time — from 1917 until 1987, when it was finally stopped because, of course, lead is poisonous.

Now ethanol is added to most gasoline routinely, and it not only reduces the toxic output of a car because alcohol itself is less polluting than gasoline, but alcohol also helps the gasoline burn more completely, so it lowers the amount of pollution produced from the burning gasoline too.

The oil industry has done its best to retain a monopoly on the transportation fuel business, but unfortunately for gasoline, alcohol is a superior fuel in many different ways. It's better for national security, it's better for America's economy, it's better for the environment, it's better for the car engine, and it has a higher octane rating.

If we had enough cars on the road capable of allowing fuel competition, alcohol could finally compete as an equal with gasoline at the pump. Gasoline prices would be forced to stay below alcohol prices (even though alcohol prices would probably continue to drop as the industry improves its efficiency) because the only superiority gasoline could maintain would be its cheapness.

Whatever happens between the contestants in this rivalry, if the U.S. had true fuel competition, in the end there would be one sure winner — the American citizen.

Adam Khan is the co-author with Klassy Evans of Fill Your Tank With Freedom and the author of Slotralogy and Self-Reliance, Translated. Follow his podcast, The Adam BombYou can email him here.

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