Dan Corkery: Time to vent over re-engineered gasoline cans

Dan Corkery: Time to vent over re-engineered gasoline cans

I'm ready to kick the can.

Not as in "down the road," but "to the landfill."

If you have not purchased a new gasoline can in the last five years, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise. I know I was.

Because of EPA regulations, you can no longer buy a gas can that has a spout on one end and a vent hole on the other. Instead, new gas cans have been re-engineered in a way that would fascinate Rube Goldberg and frustrate most users.

Pictured to the right is the gas can I bought earlier this year. It's designed to leak little if any fuel vapor. Good goal. Gasoline is both flammable and toxic.

But just because the Environmental Protection Agency has identified a problem doesn't mean Uncle Sam and fuel-can manufacturers have found a good solution. These new gas cans are hard to use. Compared with the old can I had been using, this new one has me spilling fuel regularly. Ironically, I may now be adding more nasty vapors to the atmosphere than I was before.

To dispense fuel, I have to rotate the spring-loaded green collar counterclockwise. And while holding that collar in place, I then must tug the spout inward. There's a trigger-like piece on the spout so one supposedly can do all of this with one hand.

Except, I'm not that talented.

I generally use two hands to open the spout and then wrestle with the can as I fill the mower. I wish I had a third hand. Because there's no vent, the new cans pour slowly and inconsistently. That alone contributes to spills.

Why do we need to know a secret handshake just to use a gas can?

The Clean Air Act.

In 2001, the EPA started setting new standards for vehicle exhaust emissions, benzene content in gasoline and "portable fuel containers." All new vehicles must meet the new emissions standard by 2015, and since 2011, refiners have had to produce gasoline with lower benzene levels. Again, all good goals. Volatile organic compounds, which gasoline has a lot of, contribute to ground-level ozone (smog). Benzene is a carcinogen.

The new fuel-can standards went into effect in 2009. Luckily, Uncle Sam does not require you to get rid of your old can and buy a new one.

If you have a drill with a half-inch bit, bailing wire and tire valve stem, there's an online video that shows you how to "hack" a new gas can and create your own vent hole. Just don't tell the EPA.

My advice: Keep your old gas can. It and its forebears have served the mechanized world with nary a worry since the early 20th century.

Dan Corkery, managing editor for administration, is a member of The News-Gazette's editorial board. His email is dcorkery@news-gazette.com.

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PrairieWind wrote on July 13, 2014 at 7:07 am

Necessity is the mother of patened inventions.

See http://www.nospill.com for a demo of the "better mousetrap" you seek.

I bought mine at Awesome Machines in Savoy.

bythewater wrote on August 10, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Thanks for sharing this, because I totally agree! I just started using a lawnmower for my new place, and I was wondering why my gasoline can seemed so difficult to use! My friends, who had an older model, had one that was much easier.