Winter Fuel blends

So it is definitely cold outside. No doubt about it. It was roughly -437°F recently, with a warming trend this past weekend up to the 30′s. I have lived here in Minnesota all my life and I still think it’s ridiculous that coming up to just below freezing is a warming trend. I often wonder why we all live here. Then I remember the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, ”Minnesota Nice”, just about anything on a stick at a certain time of year, and the Minnesota Vikings (wait…no…try to forget that one…sorry…)  and that makes it not so bad. Kinda.

All this winter loveliness has reminded me that we are all most likely running on winter blend fuel in our cars and trucks. It may be a little known fact, but basically all the fuel available in the winter months is quite different from the fuel you purchased way back in delightfully warm August. To prevent all sorts of cold related nastiness like fuel freezing in tanks, various additives are included with winter blend fuel. Additives take up space and generally don’t burn in the engine very well, so it ends up being a loss of energy in the long run.  Specifications can vary quite a bit, but a good average shows that the actual energy content of a gallon of winter blend gasoline vs. a gallon of summer blend to be anywhere from 3-8% less. This may not seem like it would have a noticeable impact on your wallet, but it really adds up over the entire season. Think about 15 gallons sloshing around in your fuel tank, all with 8% less energy in them to move your car through the Caribou Coffee drive-thru. 15 gallons with 8% less energy in them is the same as 13.8 gallons of summer blend. Let’s just say your car gets 26 mpg as a nice ballpark estimate. With winter blend fuel you get to drive 32 miles less for every tank than you do in the summer! That’s like driving from the deflated Metrodome to the Mpls/St. Paul International Airport and back! 32 miles is a long way to walk in January….

So 32 miles less per tank. Maybe you fill up only twice a week if you are lucky. That’s 64 miles less per week. And you qualify for the multi-car discount on your car insurance so that means 128 miles missing per week. 512 miles per month between your two cars averaging 26miles per gallon. And at $3.15 per gallon that works out to roughly $63 per month out of your pocket. That’s alot of Chipotle burritos without homes. Thanks alot Mother Nature.

$63 a month. Let’s see, stations probably start switching around November and change back in maybe April so worst case scenario is 6 months at $63 = $378. Add into that the fact that we all start our cars to let them warm up and have to drive frustratingly slow in snowstorms, both of which use more fuel. We may be spending $500 extra per winter for our two cars, just so Santa has something to glide his sleigh on.

P.S. A fun fact about fuel consumption and the typical American.

According to “The Oil and Gas Journal” website ( , Sheldon H. Jacobson, director of the simulation and optimization laboratory in the computer science department at the University of Illinois has found an interesting figure…

“Obesity is offsetting automobile engineering for better fuel economy. The auto industry has a fuel economy target of 24 mpg for 2011 model light trucks that is expected to save more than 250 million gal/year of fuel. But according to Jacobson and McLay, that savings will be eliminated by increased fuel consumption due to an average weight gain of 6.4 lb among US residents. Jacobson estimates more than 39 million gal/year of fuel are necessary to transport each additional 1 lb of average gain among US motorists.”

I suppose I should skip the Chipotle burrito then. Those beasts have got to be over 3 pounds!

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