U.S gas

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Can’t say what the net effect of Iranian crude on the world oil market will be. It’s not looking good for the Alberta tar patch or U.S. frackers, but that’s not what this is about.

Before he passed last April just short of his 9oth birthday, I spent a week with my uncle Larry Edwards in Ponoka, Alberta. Ponoka’s the Real McCoy, a cowtown on the highway between Edmonton and Calgary, home of the Ponoka Stampede and the Ponoka International Airport. Every summer just prior to the Calgary Stampede, the airport hosts an invasion of rodeo stars from across North America, flying in on their private jets to compete in what everyone says is the last pure rodeo. The rest of the year, Ponoka is a drive away from wherever people want to be, whether it’s Calgary or Edmonton or Red Deer.

I was sitting with Larry in the Ponoka Hospital while he was getting a platelet transfusion for the leukemia that was killing him. We got around to talking about the oil companies. The perfidy of Big Oil was one of Larry’s best rants. Like most Western Canadians, Larry and Bernice drove a lot, and I’m not talking about shopping in Red Deer. They’d hop in the SUV for the half-day drive to the family farm in Three Hills or a day’s spin to Saskatchewan to see Larry’s daughter. They’d take a quick spin over the Rockies to Vancouver. Or they’d drop the camper into the pickup and head East to see family in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. When it came to knowing how to get the best mileage out of whatever he was driving, the canny old farmer had it.

“Jim, there’s something fishy with Canadian gas,” Larry said that afternoon. “You just don’t get the same mileage with it that you do with U.S. gas.” It wasn’t the price difference or the metric/Imperial conversion, he went on, but the bang for the same quantity. “Don’t believe me. Try it yourself.”

I was skeptical. Gas is sold according to octane rating. All else being equal, two tankfuls of gas of the same octane rating should deliver the same mileage. But since my conversation with Larry I’ve been running my own experiment. I drive a 2010 Toyota Venza V-6 with AWD. When I fill up on this side of the border with 87-octane regular, I get in the neighbourhood of 475 km from a tankful. When I’m gassing up in Ontario I usually spring for the 94 octane mid-grade, which raises my mileage over the 500 mark. When we drove to Malone, N.Y. to buy Powerball lottery tickets, I filled up with U.S. regular. That tank took me 525 km before the low-gas warning light came on. I was so pleased I could almost forget not having won the $1.5B US.

Was Larry right? Is there something fishy about Canadian gas? I’m continuing my experiment and I welcome comment.

 

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4 thoughts on “U.S gas

  1. I have long had the same feeling your uncle Larry did, that US gas went further per tank than Canadian gas. No solid proof or data, but it seems I’d fill up close to the border and then get exceptional mileage for that tank.

    I do wonder why we’re still putting ethanol into gas, it was a failed idea for emissions and reduction of oil dependence. Failed because it took more pollution to produce and convert corn into ethanol than it saved. Perhaps it’s for winter driveability in Canada, remember the days of gas line antifreeze which was basically methyl alcohol?

    But if you’re seriously wanting better mileage, drive the speed limit and accelerate slower and you’ll be amazed. Wind resistance goes up exponentially with speed, we recently did a trip to Kingston into a steady 90 km/hr headwind and consumed close to 50% more gas than usual. If you slow from the usual 120 km/hr to 100 km/hr you will burn close to 30-40% less fuel for the same kilometers traveled and be far safer in an accident. That personal choice is especially hard to sell with today’s cheap gas.

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  2. Jim , I am not going to the United States because I’ll be poor when I come back. But what Peter says about ethanol has set me off. Tangent time! I’ve long wondered why the price of Ontario agricultural land has skyrocketed in the last few years. I believe that with the U.S.government 10% ethanol fuel requirement for American gas a lot of once food producing acreage has been given over to corn > ethanol production. With fuel and food fighting for arable land I think it has spiked the need for all farmland even here in Quebec. Have you noticed farmers from here to Ottawa clearing woodlots and grubbing roots to make it ready for crops. I mean ,really , how long would it take in normal circumstances to pay back that investment with corn harvests. One acre of tile drained farmland in the St.Eugene/Vankleek Hill area now sells for over 10K/acre. That’s up from 2-3K ten years ago. All the U.S. gov’t has to do is remove ethanol requirements and I believe Agr. land values will plummet. I’m going to start a credit default swap hedge shorting fund thingy on Agr. land and get rich. Meanwhile I’ll take out a loan and go to the States and test your mileage theory. It’s the least I can do after such an off-topic rant.

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  3. The U.S-Canadian gas tank challenge probed a childhood memory of hearing my dad o.b.m. compare Quebec- Ontario gas .
    Remember driving the farmlands with dad- we’re talking here in the early fifties. Dad spent many weekday hours behind the wheel of his car. He was a cattle drover, bought livestock by going from farm to farm, hello came in the form of the weather forecast-(gotta do hay, gonna rain’) deals were made on a handshake, he spoke a perfect Quebecois joyal. In fact dad and I used joyal as our secret language at home. The memory of filling- up the gas tank sticks in my mind. Given the option dad always filled the gas tank in Ontario. Said Quebec’s just wasn’t the same. Wished I had asked him way back then what he meant by Quebec was different, never did. Dad o.b.m. passed away in the eighties.

    .

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  4. Checked out the price of gas in middle east, I’m heading off to Israel shortly. The pump costs-in at $11.98 Canadian per gallon. Comparatively, topping a tank in Hudson feels like a free bee, we should be grateful Israeli’s have a saying: nothing is free, especially freedom.

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