Is a brand-name gas worth the money?

A reader comment on my previous post about our willingness to pay for name-brand gas caused me to delve a little deeper into the gasoline chain of custody. If you're a BP or Shell or Marathon devotee, you might want to consider the journey from well to your neighborhood station-

The oil is pumped from the ground in Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Venezuela or wherever.

It is transported via tanker or pipeline to refineries, primarily along the U.S. coastline, (including Louisiana, as we found out post-Katrina) where it is cracked into components, including gasoline.

From the refinery, this gasoline flows through the pipeline network that criss-crossing the country, eventually filling tank farms in our metropolitan areas.

At this point, all of the gasoline is the same, all one uniform product. Shell, B.P. and other brands all come from the same tanks. This explains, by the way, why you can't boycott gas that comes from one country, say Venezula. It's all comingled.

Local delivery trucks for the brand-name chains and the independents all fill up from these same tanks. At this point, the additives that brand-name gasolines promise will give you increased performance are added, like bitters in a Manhattan. These additives can add lubrication, corrosion resistance and increased octane. (Octane is a measure of a fuel's resistance to knock from premature combustion.) On the other hand, you could buy a bottle of gas additives at your local WalMart which could accomplish the same thing.

So the brand question boils down to, which company adds the best mojo to the generic gas product? And how much are you willing to pay for those additives?

I'm a skeptic. I buy the cheapest gas I can find, and I haven't been left stranded yet. How about you?

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