A Gasoline Flashback

I spilled some gas, as in gasoline, today. It was only about a tablespoon (~15ml), but it made me flashback and thinkforward. I’m old enough (oh no, an old geezer is going to get nostalgic – not) that I’m getting to see changes in many things, but I actually have a smell memory of diesel in the morning. I realized that in a few years, that may be as anachronistic as candlestick phones. And, of course, I start to think about stocks.

Yes, I admit it, I still have a car powered by gas. It’s not optimum, but my finances aren’t either. There are electric cars that can handle the kinds of roads that lead to the more – entertaining – trailheads, but those prices haven’t come down and their trailworthiness is only now being proved by real people driving in real conditions. It won’t be long before the switch. Sooner if I hit the jackpot.

But, there it was. I get gas on the way to my hikes because E is a bad thing to see when I’m miles away from the pavement. It’s a habit, even on a short hike like today’s. Pull in. Give the pump my card. Pull out the nozzle – and find that the person before me didn’t drain the last bit. As I tilted it towards the Jeep, that last little bit sloshed into the space around the filler tube. It was so little that it didn’t even drip onto the metal, and definitely not on the pavement; but it was enough to remind my nose of days decades ago when vapors weren’t captured and spills were ignored. 

Flashback time. My Dad gave me my first job. Nepotism! He had worked up from truck driver to dispatcher to warehouse manager to general manager. Saturday mornings I’d go into work with him and clean the office. The office was at a fuel depot. Cleaning the rugs meant using an industrial power washer. Cleaning the countertops meant using chemicals that were probably haz-mat, but that they sold because they could take almost anything off almost anything. Cleaning the bathrooms, nope, wasn’t going to do it. Their collective lack of being able to aim changed my bathroom habits back then. Ick. So, yeah, nepotism, but not exactly cushy.

A tablespoon of gasoline wouldn’t have been noticed. Full-size tank trucks of diesel, gasoline, kerosene, and petro-chemicals created a fog of smells that I became accustomed to. (I also became accustomed to the industrial smell of a steel mill as I worked my way through college, and the smell of cow manure as I went to a school that included an ag department. I’m somewhat immune to what upsets some.) A spill would only be noticed if someone ignored the new and annoying-for-the-time No Smoking signs. And yes, the place almost blew up one time. My Dad saw the flames, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and ran at it. The local fire chief thanked my Dad more than once for stopping it because they were sure that they couldn’t get there in time – and they were only a few blocks away.

That was the norm. So was everyone’s experience with engine exhaust, smoke, smog, dim lights, lack of safety equipment, and accidents. 

Eventually I moved onto a new job: staffing one of the very early self-serve gas stations. The steel mill was a welcome change. The pay was better and I was less likely to get held up. I was more likely to die, but that’s another story. 

Return to today. 

We live with a mix of petro and electric and hybrid vehicles. We also live with more environmental and safety protections. 

Electric vehicles are going from something to ignore, then laugh at, then fight because they are winning. Remember a few years ago when some states stood in their way? Unimaginable, now. 

Electric vehicles have enough range, for most; are definitely refined; and are an opportunity for innovations like autonomous operations. 

Change is accelerating, and ironically, one of the selling points about electric cars is their acceleration. (Feel sorry for the whatever-it-was that was behind me as my Jeep with its tiny engine tried to get up to speed. Hey, I wasn’t in any hurry. Deal with it.)

Flash forward. 

How strange it is going to be to describe how we annually used one form of diesel to move over 100,000,000,000 gallons of gasoline from around the world, to deliver it to stations, that we had to drive to, to fill up our cars’ gas tanks, hopefully without spilling a drop (or losing it to a wrecked car or ship), while making sure it only caught fire inside a few cylinders in an engine. 

Acceleration may win some over to electrics, but the reality of delivering gas versus delivering electricity is what is convincing me – in addition to the point source versus distributed pollution we’ve created for decades. 

Even gasoline-powered cars have already become safer, quieter, cleaner, and less smelly. Road noise should be down. Explosive accidents are less likely. Some have even wanted to add noise back in to make electric cars safer for pedestrians. Living by a freeway may not be as bad as it was. I still wouldn’t want to, but that’s because I prefer to live closer to nature than exit ramps. 

It may already be too late to be considered an early investor. (Duh.) It is one reason I bought stock in Electrameccanica (SOLO), an electric vehicle manufacturer that is betting on EVs enabling more innovations, like their three-wheel commuter vehicle. (Yep. And people laughed at the Prius.) 

There are still issues to be resolved for non-urban environments. It’s possible to strap a gas can to the outside of a 4WD. Maybe someone has spare batteries to replace that, but I haven’t seen them. Cabin heating in winter works, but as I understand it, it’s a big drain. I wonder how much regenerative braking can do while coming back down a steep gravel road. Maybe more than enough. I don’t know, and won’t for a while. I’ve seen just enough abandoned SUVs and sedans that get exposed in spring after they had to be left because they went just a bit too far in the early winter. 

I hear some say that energy stocks are still a good investment. No thanks. I understand nostalgia for simpler days. They were also more dangerous. Hanging onto the ‘old normal’ and thinking the ‘new normal’ will look like it is a symptom of ‘selective amnesia’. I invest for the future because that’s when I’ll be selling. That’s what investing is for, buy now to sell later. And later is starting to look, sound, and even smell much better. Now, pardon me as I grab a paper towel to wipe up any remaining spill – and silly as it may be, I’ll feel indulgent at wasting a paper towel. Will something replace that, too?

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: https://trimbathcreative.net/about/ and at my amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0035XVXAA
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2 Responses to A Gasoline Flashback

  1. JGPryde says:

    “How strange it is going to be to describe how we annually used one form of diesel to move over 100,000,000,000 gallons of gasoline from around the world, to deliver it to stations, that we had to drive to, to fill up our cars’ gas tanks, hopefully without spilling a drop (or losing it to a wrecked car or ship), while making sure it only caught fire inside a few cylinders in an engine.”
    Heck yeah! Ever consider the energy loss in transferring one KVA from a hydro electric generator at Hoover Dam to your outlet at home? Miles of metallic wire radiating heat into the atmosphere. Multiple transformers stepping the voltage down from 100’s of kilovolts to 120vac, each incurring inductive losses and power factor losses caused by inductive loads (motors)….the list goes on.
    Just to light a silly LED light bulb in your kitchen!
    Can’t we just start over again and get it right this time? :^(

  2. “… it only caught fire inside…” ___ …it caught fire only inside … 🙂

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