Dear Matt Alice:
I don't know how we got on the topic, but my boyfriend thinks that if you pour a bottle of Jack Daniel's into your gas tank, your car will run. I told him no way. Can you clear this up for us? This could take drinking and driving to a whole new level.
-- Julia, O.B.
Or, in this case, drinking and thinking. Did Boyfriend offer to dump Daniel's into his tank to prove his claim? No, I didn't think so. He might just as well have said a car will run on creamed corn or Hershey bars. There's a whiff truth to it, but not enough to get you down the block. Vodka or moonshine would work better, but it would still be a funky ride. And eventually the Boyfriendmobile would disintegrate in the driveway.
A car will run on ethanol, a type of alcohol usually distilled from corn or sugar cane. Along with disco, the '70s gave us "gasohol," a mixture of 90 percent gasoline, 10 percent ethanol. Today, in the Midwest mostly, they sell fuel that's 85 percent ethanol. And you can buy ethanol-fueled cars, but the cylinders, injectors, and spark plugs are modified, and the fuel system is stainless steel, because alcohol is very corrosive.
Which brings us to the Daniel's. Jack makes his ethanol from sour mash, but the unbottled product is 125 proof. To get it down to 80 or 82, they add water, which is why Boyfriend didn't offer to do a demo. Nobody's car runs on 60 percent water.
But while the elves try to get the pulque out of the tank of the Buick, we dialed up the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa. Apparently Canada is awash in smuggled liquor from the relatively tax-free U.S., and they can't dump it into sewers or lakes. So about four years ago they hatched a scheme to use it to run their vehicles. To give Boyfriend one last chance, we figured we'd see how the plan's going.
According to RCMP spokesmountie Corporal Riché, they'd hoped to clear out their warehouses by redistilling all that languishing Smirnoff's and Chivas into pure ethanol. The plan disappeared somewhere in the bureaucracy three years ago and hasn't been heard from since. But it should work; and having been reminded of their brainstorm, they're going to try to revive it. According to the corporal, at the moment the only thing in Canada that runs on old booze is cattle. "Extra beer" (his words; there is no American translation for the concept...) is sent to feed lots to fatten up the herds. It's apparently a fact that a steer can drink 22 liters a day before he's too drunk to stand up. Would the Mounties lie to us? I don't think so.