As soon as word of trouble in Libya even before there was any form of supply disruption, gasoline prices at the pump started to rise. As Gaddafi's forces and freedom fighters square it out in oil producing areas the media is filled with stories about how high prices will go. Have no fear, before I even learned how to drive I've been hearing about any number of products you could buy which would give you 10-15 or even 25% more miles to the gallon. But the strange thing is, none of them ever seemed to work.
I've seen fuel additives of every description from liquids to pills. I've seen "Water to Fuel" qizmos which split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen to be burned instead of gas. I've even seen special magnets which were supposed to.,.. I forget how the magnets were supposed to work but if you clipped them to your fuel line and watched the savings roll in. The cynic in me always figured that since your wallet would be lighter after purchasing one of these fuel savers your car's engine didn't need to work as hard getting you where you were going and by golly, it seems the Federal Trade Commission doesn't disagree with me.
The water to gas scams appeal to the do it yourselfers. You buy blueprints or instruction sets telling you where to buy the little plastic tank to hold some water (the only part of this deal that does) and where to buy the electrical components needed to divert energy from your car's electrical system (which was produced by burning fuel) and use it to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen (sometimes called "Brown's gas" in this context). You also need a rubber hose to carry these gasses to the hole you cut in your air intake. The key argument here is that the hydrogen and oxygen, when burned by your car's engine will produce more energy than it took to turn the water into the respective gasses. The people selling the blueprints and instructions (or even complete kits for the more technically timid) all assure you they do. The people without a commercial interest involved are far less optimistic pointing out that the energy required to split a water molecule is greater than the amount of energy given off by burning the resulting gases.
Don't feel like invalidating your vehicles warranty by modifying it's engine? I don't blame you. Fuel additives of any number of names and descriptions are available to improve efficiency and lighten your wallet. They can be liquid additives like Xtreme Fuel Treatment, convenient little pills like Ferox Fuel Tablets or any of the countless similar products they all have many things in common. They:
- Increase fuel economy by an impressive percentage.
- Decrease wear and tear on your sensitive engine parts.
- And really helps our environment by decreasing pollution.
Gee, saves money on gas, saves money by increasing engine life AND helps make us a greener world? In an era of shrinking paychecks and rising gas prices who could possibly be against that? No one is, in fact if any of the above claims could be proven the company selling the product would be lauded by the major media all the way from Motor Trend to Mother Jones.,.... but they aren't. Are they?
Why would a company producing a product making all those claims not be running to respected, independent laboratories begging to get their products tested? Hell go to Car and Driver magazine and let them test it, don't you think they could sell a few copies of their magazine with a top story like "Save 25% on Fuel Costs"? Hell, BP is still smarting over last years oil spill, how many billions would they be willing to pay for a low cost additive which would increase their market share WHILE decreasing automobile pollution? All told any product that could do what these fuel savers claim would be worth billions on the global market, if they could prove it.
I'm not picking on Ferox International or their Ferox Fuel Tabs but they're a perfect example of the problem, what I say about them is basically true for all the others. Ferox pretends to offer proof, here's their fuel saver proof page. I'll start with their "County Test Procedure" PDF which purports to show the results a county sheriffs department they had using the product. First question, which county? There are more than one in each state and more than one state yet the don't identity which county sheriffs department discovered they could save better than $25,000 a year in fuel costs. Interesting omission don't you think? After all, this is a government agency saving tax dollars, you'd think they're testimony could be a significant selling point but for some reason they're identity isn't revealed. The same is more or less true for the other two "proofs" provided. One is a trucking firm with a name that does exist but who don't seem to have their own website, and no web page I've found mentions that trucking company and Ferox without trying to sell me Ferox. The remaining "proof" is an individual trucker who is even more reclusive than the Sheriffs Department or the other trucking firm. Why are all their "proofs" so difficult to corroborate? Or put another way, if they can't be proven, what do they prove?
But you have to cut these guys some slack, it isn't like the EPA runs something like a National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory which could prove or disprove their claims once and for all. Oh wait!! They do, I just linked to it. I wonder why Ferox hasn't had their products tested there? Actually I don't and neither do you. If they had it tested and claimed it performed better than the lab results they'd be sued out of existence but as long as Ron the trucker never calls them a liar they can post his "test results" on their website and market their product through a multi level distribution model where they aren't entirely responsible for what their sales force says about their product. Plausible deniability is essential in the snake oil (or fuel) trade.
Edited to add some useful links from the FTC website I linked to near the top of this post:
Product Complaints and Refunds
If you're dissatisfied with a gas-saving product, contact the manufacturer and ask for a refund. Most companies offer money-back guarantees. Contact the company even if the guarantee period has expired. If you're dissatisfied with the company's response, contact your local or state consumer protection agency, the Better Business Bureau or the FTC.
The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.