For years, I’ve listened to reporters say that gas prices go up in the summer due to the switch to summer gas. That made me wonder why we switch to this more expensive gas and whether not switching would reduce gas prices. It turns out that summer gas is actually a very useful thing. Please excuse any errors – I’m not a scientist.

What Is Summer Gas?
All gas is a blend of oil and various additives. There are actually numerous blends, so my summer gas may not be the same as your gas. Whatever the individual components, summer gas is primarily intended to reduce smog. Summer gas contains less butane, which results in a higher evaporation point. The gas itself only costs slightly more, but refineries must buy a large supply of gas in order to make the switch, which causes a spike in prices.

Why Can’t We Use Summer Gas Year-Round?
We don’t use it year-round because engines using summer gas are difficult to start in cold weather. We don’t use winter gas in the summer because it’s less efficient in hot weather and produces more pollution at high temperatures.

What Happens If We Use Winter Gas in the Summer?
Aside from the fact that the stored gas could set your house on fire, you’ll also waste more gas if you use it out of season. Because winter gas evaporates faster in hot weather, you’ll get less of it from the same quantity of summer gas. In addition to wasting money, you’ll also pollute more. I think we can all agree that cleaner air is a good thing.

In summary, summer gas costs marginally more, but it saves money in the long-run because it burns more efficiently when it’s warm outside. Instead of trying to find, or hoard, winter gas, employ other gas-saving measures to reduce your fuel costs. Now that I know the reason for the two different kinds of gas, I will stop whining about the higher cost of summer gas (but not about the cost of gas in general.)

Sources: Slate Magazine and The Oil Drum

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