As I sit here typing this, my hands wreak of gasoline and there is enough on my shorts that, if a wayward spark happened by, could make me seriously uncomfortable, to say the least. In the meantime, we must make mention of the serious harm that has just been done to the earth: a pint or two of gasoline has spilled onto my vehicle and onto the ground, giving off vicious vapors of doom. And how did I come to be in this predicament?
I was attempting to dispense gasoline into my vehicle from the new, Federally mandated gasoline cans. For a run-down of what this entails, you may check this link. But the first paragraph should give you a clue:
The Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resource Board and the Consumer Product Safety Commission set these regulations.
The new fuel cans must have “An automatic closure spout must automatically return to a closed position when not engaged for pouring.”
In order to pull this off, some fancy doo-hicky spout was present on my can that spring-loads the spout so that it only opens when the spout is leaned up against the opening of the gas tank. The weight of 5 gallons of gasoline is just barely enough keep the spout open. One has to perform a very interesting trick: one must apply weight/pressure from above the can, while holding the bottom of the can up. Perhaps taller people with three arms can do this; with my hereditary defect of only have 2 arms and being slightly less than 6 feet tall, it is near impossible. It gets worse: the pressure must be kept on throughout the whole event, and since the new fuel cans require that they allow ‘minimal vapor release,’ there is no vent hole like the old cans, which means that a good percentage of the spout is set aside for air to come in so the gasoline can rush past it–space that previously allowed gasoline primary access. In short, when I emptied five gallons with an old model, it only took me a minute. With this new one, it took a solid four minutes, and even then it left a half gallon at the bottom. And why is that? Because in order to get the last bit of gasoline, you have to tilt the thing at a steeper angle (right?), but in doing so, the spring-loaded spout cannot remain engaged.
I was forced to pour the gasoline in the new container into the old container so as to get the last half gallon or so into my fuel tank.
Throughout all of this, eeeeeeeeeeeevil vapors are flying off into the atmosphere to hijack unwary ozone particles. I could not help but wonder: are we quite sure that there is less environmental damage with these new cans, that seem to require dumping a half gallon of gasoline on the ground and on my body and leaving another half gallon in the can then the old way, which had very little spillage (I didn’t have any with the old can) but allegedly has been emitting fumes for a couple of months through the plastic in the old can. Was a study done? Did it take into account the health risks involved in absorbing gasoline through the skin?
This is my second time with this. After the first fiasco, I went out and bought another can, figuring that perhaps I had done it wrong, or had one with a bad spout. It was basically the same effect, except that this time the spout broke off into four pieces while trying to get it to ‘lock’ onto the fuel tank opening. Maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe all the spouts are defective. Maybe there is far too much complexity embedded in a fairly simple process, practically asking for complications. I don’t know.
Have you had this experience with these new fuel cans?
Now, let’s say that I thought this whole thing was so absurd that I wanted to complain. Who exactly would I complain to? Obviously, the ones responsible. And who would they be? California, the EPA, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission each have lists of contact information of various sorts, but we all know that means nothing. It might help if perhaps we know which particular persons hoisted this madness on us, because then we could ask him what kinds of studies or tests or experiments were done. Did they know, for example, that people would lose a significant amount of gasoline to spillage but calculated that the eternal harm to the planet would be less then if some vapors hit the atmosphere in the old ones? Or did they just not care?
We may suppose that the Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association helped craft these standards. Do you feel comforted? I don’t. They wouldn’t have been involved if they didn’t think they could protect their bottom lines. Right now I’m willing to consider the possibility that their crappy spout is crappy on purpose; there is a note on the side of the can about how to buy replacement parts. Since there is only one part besides the can itself, I figure it can only refer to one thing.
I am strangely pleased to see on the PFCMA’s website
that one of their members is actually going bankrupt.
Blitz USA, the manufacturer of 75% of the consumer gas cans sold in the U.S. each year, recently announced that it cannot emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will cease production on July 31, 2012 as a direct result of the surge in litigation.
A surge in litigation? Filing a lawsuit didn’t cross my mind, but right now, an hour after, fumes are still making me nauseous and the idea seems to have merit. Except, my can is one from the “No-Spill
” company, I believe. I guess I’ll double check after posting this. Probably better for me, since Blitz sounds like its already been sucked dry.
It’s interesting to see what the PFCMA’s response to this issue is:
The Portable Fuel Container Manufacturers Association is asking congressional leaders to support recently filed legislation that will stabilize the business environment by making voluntary product standards mandatory – and keep consumers safer by giving them reasonable options for transporting and storing fuel.
So, yea, the companies themselves are seeking competitive advantages in order to stay afloat. I’m pretty sure I know where I and the other ‘consumers’ rate in this process.
So, am I really in a situation where I have to CALL MY CONGRESSMAN ABOUT A CRAPPY, GOVERNMENT REQUIRED-STYLE GAS CAN?
Yea, it almost looks like it. Or, to put it another way, there is literally not one dang thing about I can do about this. Even my congressman is going to be like, “Uh, I have more important things to do.” But what can HE do? Call up the EPA on my behalf and try to scare up the correct people who need to be berated? Yea, I don’t think so.
What we have here is an example of how the levers of power have been so exercised so that there remains no plausible way for anyone to hold the decision makers accountable. This is happening in ever smaller and narrower contexts. That is, more and more of our lives, right down to the simplest and minor aspects of our lives, are being subsumed to faceless bureaucrats and hidden do-gooders that can never answer directly for the impact of their decisions–usually influenced by other faceless bureaucrats at corporations, who can afford to field lobbyists, while little ol’ folks like me have no recourse: except to post this blog.
That is why my little excursion into pouring gasoline into my vehicle today turned into another illustration of ‘government gone wild.’
And what if I did find the specific people who inflicted this stupid change on me? I think I’d put them in the middle of the desert with an empty gas tank and several of these gas cans. Let’s see how they feel when most of that precious fuel soaks into the ground or remains in the fuel can, and they have to walk the last twenty miles home.