By: McKenzie Beehler
In the late eighties, California had a major air pollution problem. Smog was a daily issue and the government was looking for a solution. During this time of need, Dr. Peter Jessup invented a low emissions gasoline fuel. This patent (no. 5288393), made gasoline “suitable for combustion in automobiles, the emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and/or hydrocarbons can be reduced,” according to their documents on the United States Patent Database.
“The government wanted to get rid of gasoline and go to methanol. They didn’t run any experiments. They were talking about putting oil companies out of business. 150 million cars would be scraped and replaced…It wasn’t a good situation. It would’ve been a disaster.” Dr. Jessup said.
Dr. Jessup was hired by oil company UNOCAL to invent a better, reduced emissions gasoline. If he was able to do so, the government would keep gasoline-fueled cars.
Making gasoline is like following a recipe. It is a very complex mixture of many different chemicals. These chemicals can be grouped into general categories, like aromatics and paraffins. From these categories, there are different ways to test gasoline for its properties. But, the oil industry believed all the chemical recipes were discovered. They assumed gasoline could not have its emissions reduced.
“I happened to disagree with how the oil industry was going about testing gasoline,” Dr. Jessup said. “I used bigger ranges and bigger variables [of properties for making gasoline].”
Reid Vapor Pressure (the pressure gasoline creates when it sits in a can) and distillation points (the temperature that a certain portion of gasoline will boil at) are different depending upon the gasoline. Jessup tested all these properties simultaneously. First, he tested his gasoline recipes in a single car. He recorded each gasoline’s emissions for air pollution. Then, he backed up his findings by testing his new combinations of gas in ten different makes and models of cars.
“They [the automobile and oil industry] had the advantage of testing on more cars and more gas. I came up with something different than the auto oil industry. The patents were unique gasoline with unique ranges [of gasoline chemicals] that nobody ever thought of before,” Dr. Jessup said.
What he discovered changed how oil companies and the government viewed the proponents of gasoline forever. One could change the amount of chemicals and still create an effective gasoline. So, in essence, he wrote “gasoline recipes” that refineries could use to create less polluting gas.
After this discovery, “everybody hated me,” Dr. Jessup said. “They [the oil industry] wanted me to go away and be invisible.”
Every oil company would have to pay to use Dr. Jessup’s new formula for less polluting gas. So, he not only changed the views of the oil industry, but reduced automobile emissions as well.
“From 1995 in Southern California I don’t think there has been a smog since…. I feel responsible for that. I’m taking the credit,” Dr. Jessup said.