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Diesel Fuel

Boots Years ago, I purchased a pair of work boots.  The box advertised "diesel fuel resistant".  My programmer buddies would look at me funny when I bragged that my boots were diesel fuel resistant.  As a computer programmer, I didn't exactly have a need for diesel fuel resistant boots.  Well, that has all changed now.  And my boots may be diesel fuel resistant, but that doesn't prevent them from smelling like diesel fuel.

If you have a diesel truck or car, you're filling it with "on-road" diesel.  There is also "off-road" diesel (or high-sulfur diesel) that can be purchased for farm equipment, construction, trains, etc.  On-road diesel currently has a sulfur content of about 350 parts per million while off-road diesel has about 10 times that much sulfur.  Sulfur is not good for the environment but the high sulfur off-road diesel is cheaper.  The off-road diesel also has a lubricating effect so it can help increase engine durability and lower maintenance costs.

In 2006, the EPA plans to require "ultra low sulphur" diesel with < 15 ppm sulfur.  They estimate that the new diesel will cost about 20 cents more per gallon.  The ultra low sulphur diesel will need a lubricating additive or else it will increase wear on older diesel engines.  New engines will be designed for the new diesel fuel but that doesn't help me with my cheap Chinese tractor that uses technology left over from 1950.

There's not much I can do about the EPA.  I'll worry about all that when it happens.  In the mean time, I have enough diesel challenges right now.

Mower Both my tractor and my mower run on diesel fuel.  There's only one place around here that sells off-road diesel.  It's not a normal gas station but rather a large industrial fuel depot crowded with trucks, buses, construction equipment, fuel tanks, pumps and all sorts of heavy duty equipment.  I felt like an amateur there in my pick-up with my little plastic gas containers.  Since I don't have a commercial account with them, I had to go in to the office and fill out some paperwork before I could turn the pump on.

Seconds before I got to the pump, another guy pulled up with an 80 gallon tank in the back of his truck.  The pump resets itself if you don't start pumping in 30 seconds.  The guy ahead of me had a limp.  It took him several tries before he managed to swipe his card then climb up to his tank and start pumping is less than 30 seconds.

I was afraid that it would take him forever to fill his 80 gallon tank.  But most off-road diesel customers have giant tanks so the pump is much faster than most.  That's great for filling large tanks but not so great for filling little plastic gas cans.  It filled my entire 5 gallon can in only a few seconds then continued to pump some more diesel into my sandals and all over the ground.  Did I mention how bad high-sulfur diesel smells?  As if regular diesel fuel isn't already bad enough.

Sandals While waiting for the previous guy to struggle with the 30 second reset, another truck had pulled up behind him.  I had parked by the front office and carried my cans to the pump so my truck wasn't in line.  The girlfriend of the guy that just pulled up hadn't seen me standing there and decided that I must have cut in line.  Rather than saying anything to me, she went to the office and complained to the manager who came out to investigate just as I was filling my sandals with diesel fuel.

My brother had come for a visit and was following me around that day.  He had borrowed a large professional camera from his work so he could film my farm life.  Of course seeing the fancy camera made the manager very nervous.  Line cutters and diesel spills were forgotten as we were bombarded with a million and one questions about the camera.

We quickly put the camera away and explained that we weren't reporters or filming any kind of 20/20 investigation.  It took some convincing but the manager finally decided we were just a couple of ignorant amateurs trying to buy cheap gas and no real threat to his business.  He yelled for some of the workers to come clean up the spill.  They looked confused by the request until he explained that they needed to put down cat litter where I had spilled diesel fuel.  I hadn't spilled that much.  Before I even got there, the entire area was slick from what looked like years of spills but there wasn't a drop of cat litter in sight.  I'm sure the camera had something to do with the manager's new found concern with cleaning up environmentally hazardous spills.

Gas cans I managed to finish filling my other containers without any more spills.  When I went back to the office to pay, I was charged for 14 gallons of diesel.  I'm not quite sure how I had managed to fit 14 gallons into 12.5 gallons worth of containers.  I spilled enough to cover my shoes but I certainly didn't spill a gallon and a half.  Maybe the mysterious extra fuel has something to do with why they were so nervous about a camera.

In the future, I think I'll stick with on-road diesel and reassure myself that the small cost difference is justified because my tractor will pollute less.  With luck, by the time the fancy new diesel eats its way through the tractor's engine, I will have sold enough coffee that I can afford a fancy new tractor.  Do you think they'll ever make hybrid tractors?

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