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Gasoline Is Cheap, but With Coronavirus, Nobody's Buying - WSJ

When you drive down to your local gas station for a fill up, usually you have more than one option. You’ll have the regular gasoline, the silver and the gold/platinum grade gasoline. At some more progressive places, you might have bio-diesel, E85, and other alternative fuels. You have all of these different options with different price points, but how do you know what to get? Is it really worth it to upgrade to the gold and platinum? Let’s find out.

The difference between the different fuels that are available is the percentage of the gasoline which is made up of octane. Essentially, gasoline is a mix of two types of hydrocarbon change, octane and heptane. Octane is 8 carbons long, whereas Heptane is only 7. Octane can be better compressed than heptane, thus making it seem as if having a higher percentage of octane would be beneficial. If the gasoline that you have has an octane rating of 87, this means that 87% of the fuel is octane, and 13% of the fuel is heptane.

With the confusing chemistry aside, should we fill up our cars with higher octane gasses? The answer to this question is no. In theory a slightly higher octane gas would be better for your car, but in reality you won’t notice much of a difference. Cars were designed to run on the regular grade of gasoline just fine, and if you get the higher grade, chances are it’s just going to go to waste. You will not recoup the cost of the higher gasoline by increased fuel economy and less automobile maintenance. It’s just not worth paying the extra money. The one exception to this is that if you have a very high class car which is designed to take premium.

If you previously fell victim to this myth, don’t feel bad or be dismayed. Exxon-Mobil and other major oil companies make 11 digit profits from us each year, and have gotten really good at doing so. Their marketing machine has made us think that premium gas is somehow better, just don’t fall for that myth again.

Usually you will pay ten cents more for the silver version of the gasoline and twenty cents more per gallon for the gold version of the gasoline. That is of course unless you live in a strange place like South Dakota which requires 10% of the silver gasoline to be highly-subsidized Ethanol which makes the silver gasoline cheaper than regular gasoline.

So if higher octane gasoline is not necessarily better for us than the regular stuff, why does it cost so much more? The refinement process becomes more expensive as you desire to get a higher quality of gasoline. It’s pretty easy to get 87% octane in a mix of gasoline, but after that it becomes a bit more expensive. In addition, the premium gasoline could have other additives which are required by the major fuel distributors to their gas that regular and silver gasoline does not.

 

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