[MV] Some interesting notes about gasoline (Not gas prices)

Fri, 19 Dec 1997 11:10:53 EST

Effective July 1, 1996 The Oklahoma Corporation Commission has rescinded its
requirement for coloring gasolines sold in Oklahoma. After existing supplies
of colored fuel have been exhausted, all motor fuel gasoline sold in Oklahoma
will be "water white", an industry term for a clear liquid.
The inclusion of different color dyes as a means of identifying different
types of motor fuel was a common practice in the 1920's, 1930's, and 1940's.
The system was used for more than 70 years.
Gasoline coloration began in the 1920's when gasoline was displayed in glass
cylinders atop hand-operated "visible register" pumps that had been developed
so motorists could see the fuel they were buying. Color was used to attract
customers and to identify different grades of gasoline. The coloring was done
carefully, as gasoline sellers were liable for fines of up to $500 for
misrepresenting the grades of products offered for sale.
Coloring gasoline became a standard practice nationwide after tetraethyl lead
was added to some gasolines in 1923. The lead improved motor vehicle
performance, but its use raised safety concerns, as lead is toxic. In 1926,
lead suppliers reached an agreement with the U.S. Surgeon General to color all
leaded motor fuels. Coloring alerted the public to the presence of lead, and
the dye provided a staining quality that made leaded gasoline unsuitable as a
naptha substitute for cleaning clothing and other fabrics.
Most gasoline manufacturers chose bronze for regular-grade leaded motor fuel
and red for premium-grade leaded fuel. Blue was an
alternate color, but most refiners used blue to identify low octane "sub-
grade" gasolines that were sold at low prices to attract customers who had
little money to spend. Other companies sold
unleaded, uncolored gasoline, called "white gas" as an economy-priced motor
fuel.The low octane gasolines were popular during the depression years,
especially in rural areas, because they performed well in farm machinery and
older motor vehicles powered by low-compression engines.
Gasoline identification by color started to
diminish in the 1940's when electric pumps began to replace the visible
register pumps. To ease the transition for skeptical motorists, manufacturers
equipped most early electric pumps with a small glass cylinder between the
pump and fueling hose so customers could continue to see the color of the
Color coding of gasoline changed in the mid-1970's when unleaded motor fuel
mandatory for new cars and the federal Environmental Protection Agency ordered
a phase-out of leaded fuel to reduce air pollution.
Some states did not require coloration of unleaded fuels. In Oklahoma, the
Corporation Commission designated red as the color for top-octane unleaded
fuel, as well as premium-grade leaded fuel. A pink tint was required for
medium-grade unleaded gasoline. Regular-grade unleaded fuel was uncolored.The
bronze regular and red premium leaded fuels disappeared as production was
The Corporation Commission rule change rescinding colorationrequirements
applies only to motor vehicle gasoline. Red, green, and blue tints are still
required to designate the octane ratings of aviation gasolines, and a federal
regulation requires red dye in diesel fuels used by off road vehicles as a tax
identification device. Only off road vehicles, school buses, and certain other
vehicles are allowed to use the red diesel, which is not taxed for highway

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