Chemistry makes summer gas more expensive

The cold wet mornings of winter have replaced the three days of fall colors and mild weather we had here in the Delta.

With that change has come the worst part of winter.

Since I no longer, thankfully, live north of the Mason-Dixon line, I don’t have to worry about shoveling snow, so that’s no longer the worst part of winter.

Since I no longer live in Florida, I don’t have to worry about the influx of snow birds from, coincidentally, north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Since I no longer live in Virginia, I don’t have to worry about watching a fox fall through the ice on the lake while I watch through the rear sliding glass doors of my house the snow fall.

No, those are no longer the worst parts of winter.

The worst part of winter, I having to stop to pump gas on a cold morning.

I have nearly run my truck out of gas just to avoid standing in the cold and wet under an awning at the Double Quick or Exxon station.

Luck turned for me on Friday, when, after riding around for two days with the gas warning light on, the weather warmed up and I was able to pump my gas in relative comfort. 

I notched the nozzle into the filler and was surprised to learn I was only going to pay $2.05 for the gallon of gas I was about to pump.

My mind wandered back to the summer when I know I paid almost $3 per gallon for gas in the truck and maybe more for gas for the boat and neither are actually conservative in their use of fuel.

I know gasoline prices are lower in the winter than in the summer. I thought this was related to demand, but it isn’t necessarily.

According to the AAA auto club and the Environmental Protection Agency, gas is more expensive in the summer because of, get this, evaporation.

Or, more precisely, the additive used to keep gas from evaporating too quickly in the summer. 

Gasoline has a measurement called RVP, or the Reid Vapor Pressure. The higher the number, the more volatile the gasoline. 

The gasoline is reformulated to have less volatility and must be available for purchase by May 1 each year.

The refineries are retooled in the early spring to create this lower-volatility gasoline and thus we see a spike in gasoline prices then, since the supply is falling, and a continuation of the higher prices with the more-expensive gasoline. 

It seems to me a decent metaphor that humans, like gasoline, are worth more when they are less volatile. 

Volatility, even for a boxer or mixed martial artist isn’t the greatest attribute in the world. The ability to keep calm and not lose control are desirable traits. 

But, in gasoline, higher volatility leads to more evaporation. More evaporation leads to more pollutants released into the atmosphere. More pollutants leads to more smog in larger cities. 

All this means we pay more for our gas in the summer than in the winter. 

At least it doesn’t cost more to stand outside and freeze while pumping the stuff into the gas tank.


While having children and employees has taught me to allow small things to pass without enraging me, an item which has slipped into our daily speech and written text is driving me insane. 

Here goes: If you try and find your way home while lost in the woods, what are you trying? If you try to find your way home while lost in the woods, you might end up at the house. The words “and find” do not a prepositional phrase make.

Now, I know writing about the semantics of speech and written language opens me up to a barrage of comments from former English teachers.

I appreciate those comments as I often do make mistakes, but my mistakes are not a willful misunderstanding and misuse of the language.

When they send me those comments I always say, “I’ll try and do better.” 

Dang it, I meant to say, “I’ll try to do better.”


Angel Alert to the lady who was running on sidewalk on Main Street in front of Gamwyn-Wilzin Park on Tuesday night. Thank you for using that sidewalk in that area instead of using the street as your running lane. Happy birthday to Ellen Brister Lee, James Ceranti and Barry Pilz. Send angel alerts and birthdays to the contact information below.

Jon Alverson is proud to be the publisher and editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. Write to him at jalverson@ddtonline.comor call him at 335-1155.


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