Archive for August, 2011

What is the Best Gasoline?

If you drive a mile in an urban area, you will see several gas stations with many names. Some of the common names are; Chevron, Shell, Arco (BP), Texaco (chevron acquired it), Conoco, and Exxon. These are brand names and all these companies have their own refineries. In addition to that we can see many other discount stores like quick mart, quick stop, Costco, Safeway, Sam’s Club etc… These gas retailers don’t have their own refineries. It is good to have many gas stations, but unfortunately, the price of gasoline is different at different gas stations that are located across the street. I am pretty sure that you all agree with me that the price of the gas is less expensive in discount stores. Arco (owned by BP) is bit expensive or same as discount stores. Chevron and Shell post the highest price.

Why is the price difference? Is the expensive gas better for our car? Are there any differences in the gasoline sold at different stations?  The answer is Yes and No. Gasoline is refined and distributed by a few companies using the same pipelines and distribution system. Not all the companies that refine oil have terminals all over the country. If you visit a wholesale gas terminal, you can see tanker trucks from different companies waiting in line. The Chevron and Arco located across the street in your town, most probably, gets the gasoline from the same terminal. What makes the difference is the expensive additives (aka detergents) used by different brands. The main purpose of these additives is to clean up the engine thus extend the life and increase the efficiency of the engine. There are government regulations on the minimum amount detergents used to ensure the quality of gas sold.

So, what is the best gasoline? Here are some tips. The big 3 auto companies use Chevron gas for their auto testing even though there are no Chevron gas stations in Michigan. The auto companies haul Chevron gas from hundreds of miles away. Major refineries like Chevron, Shell and Exxon spent a great deal of investment in research on the detergent and started using the detergent well before the government regulation came into play in 1995. Six of the world’s top auto makers namely Audi, BMW, GM, Honda, Toyota, and Volkswagen believe that the current government regulations are not enough to make sure optimal engine performance. These auto makers raised the bar and started a new classification known as Top tier gas. Tip tier gasoline retailers have to meet a certain requirements to be included in this classification. BP disputed the Top tier gas standards and does not want to be classified as a Top Tier Gas. Costco, currently does not own their mixing pads, assures that their gasoline meets or exceeds other major brands.

Choose My Plate, Power Plate, and Food Subsidies

An interesting article appeared on the rgj.com blog section. It got some information about the healthy eating, food subsidies, and the contradictions in government policies about the healthy foods.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) replaced the decades old Food Pyramid with Choose My Plate. The new guidelines are more attractive and easy to understand to anyone. It could be considered as a reminder during the meal times. Choose My Plate is a visual cue that identifies the five basic food groups from which consumers can choose healthy foods to build a healthy plate. The basic groups are vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and diary. The recommendations are based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Earlier this year, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) came out with a new idea called Power Plate to encourage healthy eating. This plan identifies four different food groups: grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. PCRM claims that these four food groups provide the good nutrition we need. There is no need for animal-derived products in the diet, and we are better off without them. This is literally a vegan plate.

PCIM disputes some of the recommendations of USDA. The protein portion of the USDA’s MyPlate is unnecessary, because beans, whole grains, and vegetables are loaded with it. And MyPlate reserves a special place for dairy products, which are packed with fat and cholesterol and may increase the risk of health problems ranging from asthma to some types of cancer. There are many more healthful sources of calcium.

The picture on the left shows the percentage of government subsidies to the agriculture industry by food group. The USDA’s My Plate recommends to cut meat and dairy products, but most of the subsidies go into that group. Fruits and vegetables get less than 1% of the subsidies while they are supposed to fill half of the plate. It is worth reading the article appeared on the PCIM website.