Skip to main content

From oil to...?

Petroleum has taken us a long way, and I don’t just mean the billions of miles cars have traveled in this country. A lot of the advances in chemistry we have achieved have been based on oil. Our trains and heavy trucking, our construction equipment, runs on diesel, and the American workforce has used a lot of gasoline to get to work.

The fuels have changed, too. “Gasoline” started as the brand name for a by-product of Kerosene refining, sold as a medicinal to get rid of head lice, a stain remover, or kitchen stove fuel. Then Delco developed Leaded Gasoline, first sold at Refiner’s Gasoline on Sixth and Main in Dayton.

The environmental movement was something the Nixon administration felt they had to answer to, and the move was started to take the lead out of gasoline, which is why gasoline is ‘unleaded’ today.  Also during Nixon’s term, we began to experience shortages. The finite nature of petroleum, which even Henry Ford and ‘Boss’ Kettering knew would eventually be a problem, began to make itself known.

Through much of the history of gasoline and the automobile, alcohol has been involved. Early ‘high-test’ alcohol fuels, alcohol use during wartime rationing, alcohol racing fuels, fuel crisis ‘gasohol’, and now, E85 and Flex Fuel Vehicles. Before we go all-electric, we will see some more development of the internal combustion engine and alcohol fuels.

There is ethanol [ethyl alcohol, the same as Everclear] in some gasolines today, and considering the research the Oil companies have put into alcohol fuels over the past century, ‘gasoline’ could have more alcohols in the future.

Even if the internal combustion engine fades into history, that doesn’t mean all is over for ethyl alcohol as a fuel. Ethanol is also a handy liquid fuel for Fuel Cells, should that technology ever become economically capable of challenging battery power.

See you in the future.