Reader Rant: The Rise of Octane!

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Here’s the latest reader rant – along with my reply!

Greg writes: Watched an invest speech on lithium batteries. Guy who originally worked on the battery for the 2.5 pound Motorola Brick back in the day. Interesting factoid: In 1913  one could power a Model T by alcohol or steam or gas. Gas was only about 22 percent of market! Rockefeller did deal with Ford & funded R&D in Oil . . . then, serendipity! Prohibition which destroyed distribution network for alcohol bottles sold by mom & pop stores; petroleum won! So, Rocky & oil & Dupont & plastics (vs hemp) & the Yellow Brick Road took us to here!

My reply: Where to start?

Yes, one could power a Model T (or any car) with steam… if one were to replace the internal combustion engine with an external combustion steam engine.

But it wasn’t Rockefeller who undid steam – or electric or alcohol-powered – cars.

It was the superiority – cost/ease-of-use – of the gas-burning engine which did so.

With steam, you don’t get going until you . . . build up a head of steam. That takes fire – and time. You cannot cold-start a steam-powered vehicle and just go. That’s a problem gas-powered engines solved. With steam, you also have to burn something – maybe not gas – but something. Usually, it’s wood or coal, which makes a lot of soot and other not-environmentally friendly things. Plus, it’s clunky. You have to carry around all that wood/coal and then feed a fire.


The problem there is that it is more expensive to make it in volume than it is to make gasoline and it contains less energy per gallon. It works great as a race car fuel (high octane) where mileage and cost are irrelevances. But for street cars, gas is the superior fuel. It takes you farther on a gallon and it costs less per gallon.

So, it’s not a conspiracy that gas came out on top.

Gas is just the best fuel, so far.

. . .

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