Why My Government Doused Me With Gasoline

As near as I can tell from a cursory examination of the historical record…

Only twice in the entire 110-year history of Father’s Day has that holiday occurred after the first day of summer. And last weekend was one of those two occasions. So maybe I took that as some sort of a sign to write this piece (not that I really believe so much in signs).

Or maybe with all the crazy stuff going on out there right now — the anarchy in Seattle, the destruction of monuments, the Covidiot-driven explosion of new virus cases, the surreal stock market, the weirdest presidential race in modern American history — all of which warrants vigorous discussion in this forum…

I just felt like taking a break from it all (and giving you one, too) by writing about something grounded and everyday. And something that could actually help you in a practical sense, like my November article on non-ethanol gas and how to get it.

Either way, though, sign or not…

Both the onset of summer and the manly Father’s Day holiday — with its sometimes gas-powered gifts — mean millions of small engines getting fueled up and fired up across the fruited plain, some for the first time. That’s what makes this cautionary tale of mine so timely.

Like so many American tragicomedies do these days, this tale begins with one man’s suffering at the hands of our incompetent federal government. And that man was me.

A gusher of gas in my driveway (and my face!)

Here’s the back-story: In early March of this year, I filled four five-gallon plastic gas cans up at a station not far from my home where they sell ethanol-free gasoline. Normally, I stock up on this kind of fuel (it’s much better for small engines) every spring using my older gas cans with the traditional spouts and vents on them…

But this year, I used some of the new “spill proof” type of cans. I’d bought these cans relatively recently, and solely because their wide-bottomed shape ratcheted down more securely in the back of my truck.

What I only vaguely realized about these new-fangled gas cans was the fact that by design, they’re pretty much airtight — so gasoline fumes can’t escape and harm the planet (supposedly). But this also means a lot of pressure can build up in them when they get warm.

And I instantly became fully aware of this fact when I went to fill up my brand new power washer with fuel on a hot day earlier this month.

Imagine a none-too-coordinated fellow (me) awkwardly cradling a 35-pound gas can with one hand, twisting the “spill proof” collar on the can’s spout with the other — while gingerly guiding said spout into the fill hole of a fuel tank no bigger than half a loaf of bread.

Now imagine that same man 1/10th of a second later, the top half of his body totally soaked with gasoline… because that’s exactly what happened.

The built-up pressure in the can forcibly injected a quart or so of fuel down into this tiny tank all at once — which caused a gas gusher the size of the Spindletop Texas oil strike of 1901 to explode back up out of it.

This gusher hit me in the face so hard it knocked my glasses askew. Blinded and choking, I had to strip off my saturated clothes and stumble through the garage back into my house mostly by feel.

It took 15 minutes in the shower for my eyes to get back to feeling semi-normal again. And I was still tasting gasoline at dinner time. Yes, I ended up OK, none the worse for wear. But it’s easy to imagine a dozen ways in which an incident like that could’ve gone horribly, tragically wrong.

None of it was my fault, either — it was the federal government’s, all the way…

Nowhere on that can or spout was there ANY type of warning about pressure build-up causing danger or spillage. I actually can’t believe the EPA hasn’t been sued out of existence over these hazardous and hard-to-use contraptions.

And with this piece, I want to make sure nothing like this ever happens to you…

Spill-ensuring gas cans: The most idiotic invention since
every other product Washington has “improved”

Forced into the federal regulatory code by green weenies in California (of course)…

The EPA began forcing “Spill proof” gas cans on the American public in January of 2009. And judging not just by my own experiences — but also the amount of hate and vitriol floating around about them online — they’ve collectively caused more petro-spillage than the Exxon Valdez since then.

But this kind of “inverse outcomes” thing is nothing new in Washington.

Because of federal water conservation regulations, toilets don’t flush right anymore, so we flush twice. And showerheads don’t hose off our dirty bodies as well as they used to, so we take longer showers. Both of these things use more water, the exact opposite outcome the government intended to create by regulating those products.

Our mowers don’t mulch grass properly anymore because of federal safety rules, so we make two and three passes over our lawns rather than one. But this increases the risk of accidents (and exhaust emissions), the opposite of the desired outcome.

I could go on and on about this stuff, too. Soaps and detergents, adhesives, AC and refrigeration systems, light bulbs — all of these things, and tons more, have been changed for the worse by federal regulations, with dubious benefit.

And don’t even get me started on ethanol fuel, perhaps the best example of this paradox in existence. It’s less efficient than regular gasoline, damaging to engines, and a net emissions negative when you factor in its total carbon impact. Again, it’s sold to us as a benefit to the planet, but it’s really a massive liability.

The point is, these spill-ensuring gas cans are yet another in a long line of consumer products federal meddling has made worse. But as always, we Americans just shake our heads ruefully and compensate with our behavior…

“It’s the way of things,” you say — yeah, but this is
still a free country, at least in principle

I had two reasons for writing this piece today…

One reason, obviously, was to point out yet another way in which Washington’s meddlesome nature is compromising the American experience.

But the main reason, as I mentioned before, was to keep you from experiencing anything even remotely like the gasoline shower I got, courtesy of the EPA.

So here are three things you can do to make sure that never happens to you…

1) If you’ve got the new kind of plastic cans with the crazy “spill proof” spouts and no vents, you can unscrew the spout or compress them periodically (and very gingerly and slowly) to vent excess pressure from the cans when they start to swell up — or to let air in when they start to collapse in cold weather.

2) You can buy tougher metal or “jerry can” types of containers with different (and better) no-spill mechanisms. You can also buy special plastic gas cans for racing applications, some of which are vented in the traditional way. Be careful, though — most of these have really big spouts that are designed to dispense large amounts of fuel quickly, so they can be a little tricky to deal with.

3) You can hoard up old-style vented plastic gas cans from auctions or yard, garage, and estate sales. You can also pick them up off the side of the highway from time to time. Sometimes they fall off the trucks and trailers of landscapers or other contractors. Don’t scoff, I got two of the cans in my collection this way. Just be super careful if you do it.

Beyond all this, there’s another way to get a proper gas can, too.

At least that’s what I’ve come to learn — quite innocently, I assure you — from researching this topic on the Internet. Apparently, there are cheap replacement spout and vent kits out there that will convert new-generation gas cans from virtually any maker into the retro-style cans that actually work properly.

These kits are marketed for use with “water jugs,” or as replacement spouts and vents for pre-2009 gas cans. But they’ll work with modern gas cans, too, with some minor modification. There are a bunch of videos on YouTube showing American practical anarchists performing this exact hack in about two minutes.

But fair warning: If hacking your way around EPA rules is illegal, then doing this would be against the law in the same way as removing the water baffle from your showerhead, or bending the float rod in your toilet to make it flush with more than 1.6 gallons worth of water…

And as an ethical writer and totally law-abiding citizen at all times, I’d NEVER actually admit to first-hand knowledge of any sort of workaround to circumvent federal rules, no matter how stupid those rules are.

I’d also never admit to finding a great replacement spout-and-vent kit on the shelf at Tractor Supply for under $12 that’s a perfect fit for the plastic gasoline can that doused me and my driveway with fuel a few weeks ago…

Or that it’s much better to use a “paddle” style drill bit than a conventional bit when drilling the half-inch hole for the press-in vent.

Abidingly Yours,

Jim Amrhein

Jim Amrhein
Freedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder

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Jim Amrhein

Just like he was 15 years ago, when first he sullied the pages of the original Whiskey & Gunpowder e-Letter and various other forums, Jim is still ornery, opinionated, politically incorrect, and shamelessly patriotic. He’s also more convinced than ever before that government can’t do much of anything right — except expand in scope and...

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