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The Survival Podcast

EPISODE:      980
DATE:         September 13, 2012



Steven Harris returns to TSP for his 9th visit. Today he joins to further discuss how to deal with a large scale black out like the North Eastern United States is currently dealing with. Today we continue on yesterday’s topic and focus on recharging batteries, keeping cell phones and computers running, keeping the TV set operating and more.
Steven Harris is a consultant and expert in the field of energy. He is the founder and CEO of Knowledge Publications, the largest energy only publishing company in the USA.
Mr. Harris came to his current position to do full time work on the development and implementation of hydrogen, biomass and solar related energy systems after spending 10 years in the Aero-Thermal Dynamics department of the Scientific Labs of Chrysler Corporation.
Steve is always full of great ideas, knowledge and projects we can use to improve our personal energy independence and today is no exception.   Today he covers proper storage of fuel including gasoline, diesel and kerosene for long term and rotational usage.
Additional Resources for Today’s Show

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Be Part of Episode 1000
Meet Jack at the Hickory, NC Self Reliance Expo
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Full Details on the Hickory Early Meet and Greet

Steven’s Websites – Get info on all Steven’s Sites – This is for the small still, currently sold out.
Steve on Facebook

<intro/housekeeping 0:00 – 3:12>


Jack Spirko: Hey Steve, welcome back to The Survival Podcast.

Steven Harris: Jack I am thrilled to be back. This is such fun, I love it.

Jack Spirko: Last time you were on, we had a kick ass show on backup power and getting by with backup power using things that you can make part of your everyday life. I'll tell you a quick story right after that show, maybe 3 or 4 weeks I went to Arlington to do the "Self Reliance Expo". Which is kind of like the one I am going to be doing this weekend. I had a huge advice of people out there that were mostly TSP people because they all showed up early to get in early. When I got to the part on backup power I said, "How many people out there already own a generator"?  Like 95% of their hands went up. "Everybody that knows the answer is yes because of Steven Harris put your hands down" and there was only 5 hands left up after that. Of course we were talking about there car.

Steven Harris: <Laughs>


Jack Spirko: I thought that was really cool. That was a great show. I think it really taught people a lot of things, and they can get that show and all your other shows at

Steven Harris: All my previous shows are at One of the things people loved off of the last show , which was show number 940. I put a list of stuff that I put up on and it list all of the Harris approved stuff. This is stuff I have had for years, beat up, thrown at the wall, and it just works and works and works and works. I have put links up to Amazon. You can either go see it, and I say if it is available at Walmart you can go buy it at Walmart. You can go buy it here or if you want you can get it from Amazon. That list has expanded because you guys just wrote me, "I need D cell batteries. I really need D cell nickel–metal hydrides (NiMH)". So I said, "These are my favorite D cell nickel–metal hydrides". "How do I measure the power from my refrigeration"? Well you need a kilowatt meter. I listed the kilowatt meter up there, so you can go see what it looks like. That list has expanded and that list has expanded for this show as well. Everything I talk about here will be up there. I like to not just tell you things. I want to enable you. I want you to learn it and then I want you to be able to know where to get it, see what it looks like, and that is what I am about.


Jack Spirko: The show spawned a whole bunch of questions and we are going to have you come back at a later date to talk about expanding your power capabilities, beyond an inverted and a rechargeable batteries with generator systems. It also lead us down another path, that we wisely decided to cover first. As you put it, a generator without fuel is like gun with bullets. It doesn't do shit. It is a heavy weight. Today we are going to be talking about storing fuels.

Steven Harris: We are going to be talking about storing fuels this time. This show was supposed to about storing fuels and generators, but storing fuels took up so much space it ran an hour. The show after this one will be on big generators, small generators, gasoline, diesel , natural gas generators, P.C.O. generators, 2-cycle generators, whole house generators, and regular generators that is the next show. Look forward to it. Since you guys have written to me about generators for the last month, I got a show lined up that is going to be Rock'em Sock'em


Jack Spirko: Awesome, but today we are going to talk about fuel storage. Specifically we are going to talk about what? Kerosene, diesel and gasoline.

Steven Harris: Yes. We can start right into it. This is directly from you guys. You guys asked me all those questions. Today's show is all about the best and easiest ways to store gasoline or diesel or even kerosene, and all the fuels. How to treat them. How to use them. When they get too old. What nasty things can happen to them. How should they be stored. A generator is useless without fuel, like Jack said and I say. A generator without fuel is like a gun without bullets. During the blackout of 2003, I got pictures of people wheeling an $800 generator around. All they had was a 5 gallon gas can on the thing. How to properly store fuel and keep it good has always been a big mystery for most people. There is lots of myths out there, like it is going to turn varnish and all this stuff. We are going to get rid of those myths right now. We need to get subject of how to store fuel and keep your fuel quality, before we can get into the generators. Your traditional 5 gallon red gasoline container that you buy in Walmart or any auto supply store is made from HDPE. That is a common industry term, HDPE. It stands for High-density polyethylene. Anything made from HDPE will store gasoline, diesel, kerosene, and alcohol as good as any 5 gallon gas can will. Same material, different shape, it doesn't matter, it is the material. The item that I have used the most for storing my gasoline, my diesel, and my kerosene that I have used since year 2000 is a regular 15 gallon plastic drum. This is the same blue plastic drum you buy for water storage a water drum will hold gasoline just perfect. These 15 gallon drums come in either blue which you are used to seeing, you know the food grade blue. If it is food grade you can put gasoline in it, you just can't use it for water afterwards. Or it comes in a translucent white, and you can kind of see the fuel level through the translucent white. both are HDPE and both will work perfect. The one I choose to drive around with in my pickup truck when I am doing long drives is the blue one, because it looks like a water drum. I was driving over the Hoover Dam with my truck and trailer. The guy looked into the back of my pickup truck . He said, "Whats in those 15 drums"?  I said, "Water, I am going to the desert". I didn't tell him it was gasoline.



Jack Spirko: That is a good point. Another thing I like about the size of that storage container, it is significant at 15 gallons. It is still something that 2 guys can pick up and move around. You are looking at 120lbs - 130lbs roughly I would guess. For a 55 gallon drum full of fuel isn't moving with out a piece of equipment.

Steven Harris: That is right. Gasoline is about 6.2lbs per gallon.

Jack Spirko: Water would be about 100lbs

Steven Harris: Water would be almost exactly 100 lbs. Water is 8.35lbs per gallon. I am a big 6.2 guy. I can grunt and pick it up and put it into the pickup truck. I can roll the barrel around. I can drop it off the pickup truck, and it will just laugh at me, it is so durable. I have put my water into 15 gallon drums just so if I need to move them here to here or here to there and everything else. That is my personal preference. I am telling you why it is my personal preference. If you got a 55 gallon drum. You know what is worse than not having a 55 gallon drum. Is not having a 55 gallon drum full of water. Use what you got, people. This is my favorite, but what you can get and what you got is what you should be using. Now if you want to see what a 15 gallon HDPE blue drum looks like, for some reason. I got the link over to amazon, at Solar1234. You can actually buy it over at amazon, if you want. It is $50 plus mail order. The way to get these things locally is you go to or just go to and type in maps. Google maps will be the first link that shows up. Here is the key words, type in "Drums and barrels <Your City> <Your State>". You will find all of your local drum and barrel suppliers. These are people who deal in nothing but drums, surplus drums, used drums, and new drums. You can get these 15 gallon for between $20 and $35 locally. Depending if they are new or they might had some sweet syrup in them. They might be white or blue, but they are still food grade and the drum company would have washed out the syrup and then dried them. They are selling them to you as used drums. These are perfectly good for storing your diesel fuel, gasoline, or kerosene. Jack, what do you have around you for drums and barrels?


Jack Spirko: If you mean your map trick, the trick you just did?  "Dewey Cook Scrap Metal and Iron" and "Gibbs Brothers Cooperage" are the 2 that show up in Hot Springs. If you get answers in Hot Springs, you're probably going to get answers anywhere.

Steven Harris: Cooperage is good that is an old term for barrels.

Jack Spirko: Yep. That is a wine barrel makers term.

Steven Harris: Do you have any barrels in your personal storage?

Jack Spirko: I actually use barrels very similar to what you are talking about. I also do use 55 gallon drums for fuel storage. Specifically for diesel, because I have 2 diesel vehicles and i have a generator that runs on diesel. I store a lot of diesel that I am not looking to make mobile, but I use the exactly same barrels for mobile fuel usage. The other thing that I use is NATO Jerry Cans for smaller amounts because they are so damn durable and proven. I really like those 2. Those are kinda my big 3 right there. I do have a few of the red cans too, but that is just because they are cheap. I won't buy one of those at a store, because there are better products. Some time you are at a swap meet and somebody is selling them for $2 a can or something. I'll pick them up.



Steven Harris: Also with the NATO Cans, be careful. There is a difference between the welded seam and the the pressed seam.

Jack Spirko: Ok.

Steven Harris: There are the cheaper ones that are pressed seams, the better ones are welded seams. Those can get pretty pricey. Those can be $30 a piece for a 5 gallon can.

Jack Spirko: They're expensive, but they are the best thing I have found for mobility. One of the things that I have never really thought of, was the fact that.... Let's say I have 20 gallons of that strapped to the back of my truck anyone looking at it, know what it is.

Steven Harris: Yep

Jack Spirko: Anybody. Not just about crossing the Hoover Dam, but just theft. Like you said, people are less likely to steal water than gasoline.

Steven Harris: <Laughs>

Jack Spirko: That is a great point, I never really thought of that.

Steven Harris: Unless it is the day after a hurricane. Then you are in trouble.

Jack Spirko: Yeah. Of Course they might be in trouble if they go to drink it.

Steven Harris: <Laughs> One of the secrets of storing fuel, especially gasoline in these 15 gallon drums or 30 or 55 gallon drums, is having a very good bung wrench. The one I have is cast from solid aluminum. It is indestructible it lets me tighten down drum opening with all my force. I get a prefect 100% seal. Most drums you got a big opening and a small opening. The small one is for the air hole, if you are pouring out. You basically leave that one closed all the time. Your tightening down the big one. There is a little o-ring gasket in there. Make sure the o-ring gasket doesn't jump out, if you turn it down too hard. Getting that good tight drum seal is the most important thing. You can usually get a bung wrench where you buy the drums and barrels. At the cooperage place or the scrap and salvage place, that jack had is excellent. If you can't get one there, or if you just want to see what a bung wrench looks like I got 3 of them listed on right now. You can go see what they look like. I got a light weight aluminum bung wrench, which is ok. If you can afford the $33 I got a wrench, thats the one that I have. It is on amazon, you can get it. It is all one piece. It is solid cast aluminum, with all of the sized tools on it. It has 4 ends on it. It is like a double end wrench, with 4 ends on it. then it has two other little wrench built into it. The thing is so solid, it is a weapon. You can use it with any barrel or drum that you get. Go take a look at it. Buy it locally. Buy it through there, I don't care. I just want you guys to be able to go see it. This lets you get an incredible tight seal on the drum because the number 1  enemy of the storage of gasoline is it being exposed to air, or it evaporating out. Gasoline is a mixture of sometime  nearly 1000 different chemicals. The major chemical in gasoline is benzene, which is a carcinogen. People, don't drink it. Don't suck it. Try not to get it on your hands. It is not really good stuff, in the long term. Especially if you get exposed to a lot of it. There is something called the heavier ends and the lighter ends. When the lighter ends evaporate off, and the lighter ends is what you normally smell when you smell gasoline. Then you are left with heavier lower vapor pressure hydrocarbons some of these are called olefins. They are what make things gummy. The end result is that you get a fuel that does not what to evaporate every well. That is the end thing. You got a leaky container, it just doesn't want to evaporate. Well when gasoline doesn't want to evaporate very well, then it makes it harder for the engine to start. Remember the old saying, "It is gasoline vapors that burn not the gasoline itself that burns". No vapors, no ignition, no engine running.



Jack Spirko: I have got a question for you. Other than the fact that they are lighter and easier to move. My 55 gallon drums of diesel fuel aren't going any where, without a fork lift. Is there any other reason you settled on 15 gallon drums, from a size footprint standpoint?

Steven Harris: No, it was the weight. Keep in mind you can stack them on top of each other. They can stack just find, at least 2 high. They are an incredibly durable. If you drop a 55 gallon drum off the back of your truck, the amount of weight in it might make the thing burst, it would probably survive quite a few drops. You have got the same wall thickness in a 15 gallon. You got a smaller diameter, so it is much more tight. I have skidded these things off the back of my pick up and down the highway. Gone and picked them up and put them back into my truck. They are just really indestructible. Like you said, the reason I put stuff in it is so I can lift them and so I can move them.


Jack Spirko: I think that maybe it makes rotating your fuel a little bit easier too, because you have smaller quantities to work with.

Steven Harris: Yes. Rotating your fuel in a 15 gallon drum is definitely a lot easier than it is in a 55 gallon drum.

Jack Spirko: I can do that every other day, if i really want to. I it depends on how far the F-350 is going. You don't go that far on 15 gallons with an F-350.

Steven Harris: That's right. Think about it. It is a 5000 to 6000 pound truck. Moving 5000 to 6000 pound with 2000 pounds in the bed 12 miles on 1 gallon of anything, isn't that a kind of like a little modern miracle.

Jack Spirko: I think it is so under appropriated by modern society. If you figured out what a gallon diesel fuel could do in human labor it equates to about 8 months of work. The level of freedom that gives society is so underappreciated. I digress, but it is amazing. I have told you that they are durable as hell.

Steven Harris: I have told you that they are durable as hell. I have dropped them off the back of my pickup truck. If you fill one of these drums full with gasoline and it gets to be summer time, it is going to heat up. It is going to bulge out. It is going to look fat. It is going to look bloated. almost big enough to make you scared a little bit. Don't be. Don't let it scare you. It can take it. In the winter time it is going to get sucked in and have a great big dent in it, big enough for a cat to walk through between it and the wall. It is going to look very funny. Again don't worry about it. It can take it.


Jack Spirko: On that note, would you recommend that when I look it and I see one of my barrels all bloated out that I go ahead and crack it and let it vent off.

Steven Harris: Nope.

Jack Spirko: Let it alone. OK. 

Steven Harris: Just leave it alone. You're losing the stuff that you want to keep. You're losing the light ends. They can take it. I have been out there in my garage seen them cycle every year, for 10 years. They get bloated and big and small. When I was going on a trip in the desert, they would be bloated. I would go up in the mountains, they would be sucked in. They can do it almost infinitely, they can go in and out. When you see them bloated or sucked in, that means your seals are good. That is a good thing. If you don't see them being bloated or sucked in as the heat is changing, get you bung wrench and go check check your seal. Put your nose up to it and do you smell gasoline? If you smell gasoline, it is probably not sealed good. You should be sealed so good that you will not smell the gasoline coming out of the thing at all.



Jack Spirko: That means I am doing it right, because when I walk in shed I don't smell diesel fuel.

Steven Harris: Exactly. Diesel fuel is harder to smell then gasoline. I have been using these drums till about the year 2000, and all of mine are just fine. I do this every year nothing is wrong. In fact I think so much of these drums, here is a good thing for you and I to talk about Jack. If I lived in an apartment and I had a balcony and I was 50 stories up in the air. A 50 story apartment building and I was concerned about preparedness and my safety. I personally would think nothing of having a 15 gallon can, 15 gallon HDPE drum like I just described, in my closet full of gasoline year around in my apartment on the 50 floor.That is how safe I think these drums are. The drum is just so darn tight. You tighten it up with a good bung wrench. I would use something like a Honda EUi 1000 or Honda EUi 2000 generator on my balcony. If you got a balcony on your 50th floor, and you are not too scared to walk out on it. I would store the generator in the apartment with no fuel in it because a generator is leaky when it comes to fuel. You are going to smell it. No fuel in the generator, get rid of the fuel, run it dry. Let it air out for a day or 2. Then put the generator in your apartment and the barrel of fuel. Then with the big disaster going on. Put the generator on balcony. Put the fuel drum on balcony. Use my siphon, that i am going tell you about, to transfer the fuel to the generator. Then seal the drum back up. Run the generator and leave them both on the balcony. This would be of the very few ways that I could think of to provide electricity to a person on the 50th floor of an apartment building. The drum is so well sealed that it is not a fire hazard. What is going to ignite it. I mean don't set a candle on the thing, but other than that what is going to ignite. Even though there is no vapor, no smell, it is not going to blow up. It is not going to burn. I wouldn't want the landlord to see it. He would have a conniption fit, but is because he doesn't understand.


Jack Spirko:  Sure. I think I would personally had a lot of apartments, have storage building out on there patio. If I had the option I would prefer it there. From what you are telling me, I wouldn't let the absence of that prevent me from having fuel available. 15 gallons and a little 1K or 2K Genset, those things a sippers. You are not going to be running the whole doggone show, but you are not going to be doing that in an apartment anyway. That will give you some power for a long doggone time, on of of those 1K or 2K generators sets.

Steven Harris: Especially if you use what we talk about on the show 940 with recharging AA batteries. We are going to talk about in the future about charging up marine batteries in your house and your apartment. I always talk about, "You run like a submarine". You start with a generator, and like a submarine on the surface, your run full speed, you run your microwave, you run your TV you run everything you need in your house, you recharge your batteries when you are on the surface. Then you turn off the main engine and go below the surface and you "run silent, run deep" and sip the energy off your batteries. I have talked about that. We will talk about that in detail in the future. Other than a lot of batteries, or this 15 gallon trick with a small Honda EU 1000i  kind of generator... Imagine being on the 50th floor. Jack, the walk up and down would be killer. You are almost marooned. I know so many people have written me around the world. I know there is people... In fact write me and tell me what your apartment story is. My email is on I want you to write me and say, "Steve, I am on 60th floor. Steve, I am on the 80th floor." In fact I want to start talking to some apartment people because maybe we can have a show just for people in apartments.



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