10 Biggest Movie Myths About The Apocalypse

#10 - Fuel

In nearly all post-apocalyptic movies, the stuff that makes things go is valuable. I'm talking about gasoline, petrol, fuel. This is true in The Road (2009), the Mad Max series (1979, 1981, & 1985), Waterworld (1995), and more. Gas is the new currency. He who controls the fuel, controls the universe. Here's a common scene - Our itinerant hero wanders the wasted highways of the blasted earth, searching for the scraps necessary to survive. He comes across the scenes of an ancient road battle with overturned, rusted cars amid the windswept carnage. Said hero wisely checks each car for gas, squeezing out the last few drops into his jerry can. Eureka, the Road Warrior has a few pints of petrol that will get his GTO zooming down the asphalt once again! Stop right there. Here's the big problem with all of these scenarios. The fuel that powers your car has a shelf life, an expiry date. Its not the gasoline itself that will go bad. Pure disilate or crude is stable. Its all of the additives put into the fuel that will ruin it - the stuff that is chemically engineered to make the gas as efficient as possible (i.e. making it volatile for best burning) degrades only after a few months. To make matters even worse, any exposure to oxygen will cause these additives to deconstruct into varnish after about 6 months, which surprisingly isn't great for an internal combustion engine. That's why if you store your car for a year or more, you need to drain the tank ... else you won't be starting your car. Anything pulled from those cars is basically tree sap ... and those cars would be undrivable until that bad fuel is flushed out of the system. So the idea of a civilization that has lasted far beyond the Doomsday Event scraping together that last few€milliliters€of gasoline is as fake as a Hollywood Hooters. Unless those survivors start manufacturing their own fuel, gasoline is going to be worthless after a few years in any quantity. But The Road Warrior isn't as exciting with a bunch of crazies chasing Mel in a peloton of 10-speeds. Or ... is it?
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Robert Curtis is a columnist, podcaster, screenwriter, and WhatCulture.com MMA editor. He's an American abroad in Australia, living vicariously through his PlayStation 3. He's too old to be cool, but too young to be wise.