Letter: E-85 and Generators



I didn’t have any luck searching for this on your website. May be something you consider for a future article.

How well/poorly do portable generators function using “ethanol gas” (E-10 ‘the normal mix”, and E-15 [or higher] which various lobbies seem to want to foist on us)? How about going all the way to E-85 if you can’t obtain/forage/swap for “the good stuff”? Even with stabilizers, the ethanol is very hygroscopic so goes bad fast, but what about a post-hurricane/tornado/etc. scenario where it hasn’t had to sit long in the tank?

I got to thinking in the post-Maria coverage that I didn’t know how well generators tolerated ethanol? Because it reduces the “energy density” of the fuel, would the power generated make it past the controller? Screw up your system?

JWR’s Recommendations of the Week

Here are JWR’s Recommendations of the Week for various media, tools, and gear of interest to SurvivalBlog readers. This week’s emphasis is on auxiliary fuel tanks. (Down in the Gear section.)


The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century by James H. Kunstler

Fire and Ice, by Ray Kytle


Enemy at the Gates. A highly fictionalized retelling of the battle of Stalingrad. It is from the perspective of a Red Army sniper team.

Panic in Year Zero. The corny film that first got me thinking about TEOTWAWKI. It was recently mentioned by a SurvivalBlog reader, in an e-mail.

Letter: Heating Oil and Kerosene Uses

heating Oil

Hello Jim:

I wanted to write a note about an idea for heating. We use a Nestor-Martin as well as a napoleon oil stove to heat. These are very, very efficient. They burn one and a half to three gallons maximum per day and can heat a 2000 square-foot home. They require no electricity in their gravity fed from oil tank. I’ve heated with wood most of my life. (There is nothing like a wood fire.)

To give you an example of how much the world has changed, in the late 70s and 80s as a Boy Scout our troop raised most of our funds from going in the woods felling trees and selling firewood. Nowadays, the Scouts have been watered down to car washes and cupcakes sales. We had professional woodsmen guiding and overseeing us to minimize the danger, but the danger was there nonetheless. We also did paper … Continue reading

Letter: Canned Gasoline Question

Canned Gasoline

Hi, I ran across this canned gasoline at my local Walmart that was available in both 2-stroke and 4-stroke. (I’ve included a pic, which also shows the price.) My question would be about the viability of using the 4-stroke as an emergency fuel for my car, keeping one in the trunk “for just in case”and a few in the shed for long-term storage. Although quite expensive, the octane is correct. I am amazed at the claimed shelf life of five years in the can and two years in the tank. I was under the impression the even with Sta-bil added, gasoline would only be usable for maybe two years. Are you familiar with this fuel? If so, do you know how it’s able to last so long and if it safe for a car?

SurvivalBlog Resources: Liquid Fuels Storage and Transfer

Introductory Note: The following is the first of a series of articles by JWR that will profile some of the thousands of archived SurvivalBlog articles, grouped topically.

Storing and transferring liquid fuels is topic that often comes up in conversations with my consulting clients and in letters from SurvivalBlog readers. There seems to be a lack of knowledge or misinformed voodoo out there in the general public about liquid fuel shelf life, flammability, containers, and how to transfer fuel when the power grids are down. But those questions have all been “asked and answered” in SurvivalBlog, over the course of the past 11 years.

To begin, it is important to understand that the general rule about distilled oil products is: With the exception of LPG, the more highly refined the fraction, the shorter its shelf life.

Let me back up for a moment, and describe how refining works: In … Continue reading

Letter Re: Propane As An Energy Source

A very interesting and informative article, but I’d like to add a couple things. Some 500 gallon propane tanks are fitted with what’s known as a “wet leg”. It is another valve situated on the top of the tank, in addition to the main valve. It’s plumbed to a pipe running to the bottom of the tank, with its purpose being refilling smaller tanks, like 20 lb portables. It requires a specially fitted hose, the shorter and larger diameter the better; 10 feet works well in 3/4” diameter. I mention a short length as disconnecting the hose from the bottle causes you to lose whatever propane was in the hose, and larger diameter to reduce the time required for filling. I purchased three used tanks from a propane supplier, with the specific requisite that at least one have a “wet leg”. It cost the same as the other used tanks. … Continue reading

Propane As An Energy Source- Part 2, by JB

Storage Tanks and Transfer of Propane (continued)

Once the tank is full, the fill hose ball valve is closed (stopping flow into the tank), the tank bleeder is closed (if used), the pump is shut off, and then the tank valve closed, in that order. Double check that the hose and tank valves are closed. The small unloader valve between the hose ball valve and tank is opened to drain the liquid trapped between the two, so the hose adapter can be safely disconnected from the tank. Failing to bleed the liquid trapped between the tank and ball valve can cause injury as liquid can be vented towards your face when the tank adapter is unscrewed. Remember that liquid propane will freeze skin upon contact, so wear gloves and safety glasses.

Please note: Not anyone and everyone should attempt to fill a cylinder without … Continue reading

Propane as an Energy Source- Part 1, by JB

Propane, or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is an excellent energy source for several reasons. It stores easily and has a great shelf life. It’s portable and can be adapted for use in internal combustion engines. It can also be used as a refrigerant, and in some situations a viable weapon. Long after the grid goes kaput and gasoline has turned to varnish, propane will still be usable.

Basics of Propane

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of full grill bottles stacked in exchange racks throughout the country. In addition, there’s a multitude of medium and high volume tanks scattered about where one can find propane. Super large tanks are used at industrial sites to supply large volumes of gas for manufacturing. Some municipalities use blended propane-air for large-scale distribution systems, which supply entire cities, and therefore require massive amounts of propane storage. With the right tools and the … Continue reading

Letter Re: Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned

That was another great article [on Hurricane Matthew]! A suggested alternative that I have adopted is buying a turbo diesel automobile and truck.  The benefits are simple and yet many people still have not discovered the option. Here are a few:
My VW tdi as an example gets about 43 miles per gallon, so with a 15 gallon fuel tank it achieves about 600 miles plus on a  tank, and by adding three NATO style 5 gal metal cans (15 gallons total) in the trunk I have a 1,200 hundred mile cruising range. That is hard to beat.

Another advantage diesel in several scenarios I have been through was that diesel will still be available when regular gas is sold out.  In my own testing, diesel is not nearly as volatile as gasoline.

Diesel stores for 3 to 4 years without stabilizers with … Continue reading

Letter Re: Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned

Good Morning, SurvivalBloggers,
SurvivalBlog recently had a very good list of hurricane preparation tips in Hurricane Matthew–Some Lessons Learned, written by a Florida resident. As a former 20+ year Florida resident I’d like to add to his excellent piece.

In Florida, hurricanes are a way of life, and the period from June 1 to November 30 is known as “hurricane season.” The period from December 1 to May 31 is known as “not hurricane season.”  “Not hurricane season” is when one should be doing their preparation for the other six months. During “not hurricane season” one can find plywood on sale occasionally, generators are plentiful, frequently at reduced prices, and contractors and handymen are available.
“Not hurricane season” is when one purchases plywood (tip: thicker is better), cuts it to fit windows and vulnerable doorways, drills mounting holes in it and labels each sheet as to … Continue reading

Letter Re: Differences Between Combustible Gases

James, Hugh,

Before someone gets hurt or blows themselves up, here are some more details on the gases in question.

Natural gas is produced primarily from high pressure gas deposits deep within the earth, and to a lesser extent as a byproduct of oil production. Natural gas is what is provided to most homes that are connected to a gas main, served by a gas company. Natural gas is primarily Methane gas, with a formula of CH4, or one Carbon atom with four Hydrogen atoms.

Methane has the disadvantage that it cannot be liquefied by compression. Natural gas must either be stored at high pressure (2000-3000 PSIG / 130 – 200 bar) for vehicle or other portable use. This is called CNG Compressed Natural Gas. Since methane is stored as a gas, the remaining volume in the cylinder can be determined by the pressure.

To store massive amounts of … Continue reading

Two Letters Re: Differences Between Combustible Gases


I read the article on combustible gases. You have to be very careful with the cheap conversion kits to propane for generators; almost every one of the cheap ones do not have a device to cut off the propane if the engine stops. Like loss of spark or low oil, it will keep pouring propane into the Gen set. I have been a mechanic since 1967, and these cheap kits are very dangerous. I have seen several cause explosions. – B.L.

o o o


I just finished reading the post about different kinds of gas and saw some information I would like to correct:

Natural gas at your home is in the 4-ounce pressure range not 7 pounds. Propane used in the same way is 7-ounces.

Most propane is produced from the removal of natural gas not crude oil. Butane is also recovered in this same process.

Butane … Continue reading

Letter Re: Differences Between Combustible Gases

Dear Hugh,

In response to D.H.’s questions on gas, I offer my thoughts. Generally, I would tell anyone to use the gas specifically recommended for the equipment they intend to use. Trying to keep it simple about the different gases, an explanation of the differences follows.

The first difference between the gases is chemical makeup. Propane has three carbons atoms (and hydrogen atoms) in the molecule. Butane has four carbons, and so does its isomer iso-butane. Butane is arranged in a four carbon chain, while Iso-butane has a center carbon, with the other three carbons coming off like spokes, and they have different flash points. Natural gas is a combination of methane (one carbon) and many of these other gases. Propane, methane, and butane are all derived from natural gas through a process called fractional distillation that takes advantage of each chemical’s flash points to separate them and remove impurities. … Continue reading

Letter Re: Differences Between Combustible Gasses


The difference between CNG and piped-in gas to your home is simply pressure. The gas in my house is at 7 psi and if your thumb is big enough you can stop the flow. CNG could be as high as 3000 psi, and you find it in tanks for vehicles that burn natural gas and filling stations for natural gas burning vehicles. The difference between butane, propane, and natural gas is British Thermal Units (btu) generated by a cubic foot of each substance. From high school, a btu is the amount of energy it takes to raise one pound of water one degree Farenheit at one atmosphere of pressure. I know that propane generates 20% more heat when comparing the same quantity of that to natural gas. I’m not sure where butane falls in there. The difference in heat yield is dealt with by changing the orifice through which … Continue reading