Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fuelling dissent

So. Free fuel today.
Can't believe I can't find a pic of the board showing "0.00" This pic from here
A Woolowrth servo in Burwood gave away E10 fuel (90% petrol, 10% ethanol) for an hour this morning. Unsurprisingly, the promotion proved more than a little popular, and apparently caused major congestion on Parramatta Rd.
First this...
...and then this

The interesting part is that the fuel was apparently being given away by Woolworths AND the NSW government - which can only mean that the government was eating some of the cost.

Now, fuel ain't cheap, of course. And there can be no doubt that in an hour a HUGE amount can be pumped - especially if the customers don't have to go in and pay for the stuff.

Luckily for all of you, I used to work at a service station (spent 3 years riding a till one day a week while studying) so I know a bit about the topic.

Service stations keep their fuel in huge tanks under the ground - almost all have several tanks, and these tanks are usually into the tens of thousands of litres.

Most places get their fuel delivery a few times a week - this means that the station must be able to store enough fuel to get through a few days.  That can include a "cheap day" when fuel sales can be several times the amount sold on a "normal" day.

The point is that these tanks can hold a LOT of fuel - and that station would have gone through an eye-watering amount.

This Daily Terror tells us why:
It seems most likely that Woolworths/Caltex has been talking to the government about the trouble they are having meeting the 6% requirement, and a deal was worked out that seemed mutually beneficial.

The fact that the NSW government patrt funded this caper is not the only point of note - the Terror story reads as if vast tracts of it were simply copied and pasted from a press release:
You tell me that most of that section wasn't copied and pasted straight from a media release.

The shoddy work from those journalists shows just what a carefully thought out (some might say calculated) move this was by the government.

The free fuel got enormous amounts of coverage - I retweeted something about it, and there were countlesss tweets spreading the news.
The problem the government has is that large portions of the community have a pretty fixed idea about E10 fuel. I broke my "Never Read the Comments" rule to see what people had to see, and there wasn't one favourable comment about E10
Now, I would suggest that most of those comments suffer from confirmation bias (or just a selective ear). Ethanol produces 34% less energy than Petrol - so a tank with 10% Ethanol should burn with 3.4% less efficiency.

It would be as simple as seeing if the price is therefore 3.4% cheaper - but of course that figure must surely vary depending upon the car, the type of driving and any number of factors.

Moreover, the stations make it hard to compare by not having another fuel with a comparable octane reading, so it's almost impossible to run a fair test in your car.

At the end of the day, the government is pushing E10 fuel pretty hard. Maybe it is because Manildra is a major donor, or maybe it is because it is the most environmentally sound solution.

But if attitudes like those in the comments persist - well, it's going to be a pretty tough sell.

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