Originally Published: May 13, 2008 1:17 p.m.
It used to be called "regular." But there's nothing regular about leaded gasoline these days - good luck even finding a gallon.Is there anywhere at all in the U.S. where you can still pump leaded gas into the family car?That's one of the questions in this edition of "Ask AP," a Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers' questions about the news.If you have your own news-related question that you'd like to see an AP reporter or editor answer, send it to email@example.com, with "Ask AP" in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.***The AP College Football Poll prides itself on the fact that its voters' ballots are made public every week during the college football season in the fall. (Unlike, say, USA Today's Coaches Poll.) Where can I go to find the voting results from the sportswriters who vote in the AP poll?Bruce Adams Jr.Lafayette, La.ANSWER: The AP College Football Poll voters do agree to release their votes each week during the season. The AP puts together an online interactive featuring each poll voter's ballot. In fact, that link's still active on certain websites, including the one by your hometown paper, The Daily Advertiser of Lafayette, La.:http://tinyurl.com/5bjptfThis is all very outdated, of course - the season ended months ago - and this link only shows the results for the final vote of the year. But when college football teams are in action, the results are posted each week.Mary ByrneAP Deputy Sports Editor***With all of the ink that is being given to the subject of gasoline, why is the adjective "unleaded" still being used to describe it? I can't remember when I last bought "leaded" gasoline. Is it still available in the U.S.?John MoreKingston, N.Y.ANSWER: No, it's not available anymore for automobiles - it was phased out in the '80s for environmental reasons.Lead additives can be mixed with unleaded gas to fuel cars designed for leaded gas, but the additives are only intended for off-road use, at least in the U.S.John WilenAP Energy and Transportation Writer, New York***The world appears to have an insatiable thirst for oil. Millions of barrels of oil are pumped from the Earth each day, but does anyone know the "replenishment" rate? Is the prospect of depleting all the Earth's oil a legitimate concern, or is new oil being created at a rate which will sustain us "forever"?Gary WagnerMorton, Ill.ANSWER: Oil is a finite resource and eventually there will be a point where reservoirs are depleted and new ones become more and more difficult to locate and develop.The International Energy Agency estimates the world has 7 trillion barrels of conventional oil, of which 3.3 trillion barrels are technically recoverable. It projects global need between now and 2030 will total 1 trillion, about as much oil as already has been pumped.How much of the world's oil will be pumped depends on price and technology. With prices high, more oil will be pursued.There is a view known as the "peak oil" theory that suggests production - now 87 million barrels a day - already is at its maximum and is beginning a permanent decline. Others say that point is still 20 or 30 years away and may be extended further by high prices and new technology.What about the formation of additional petroleum within the Earth? Don't hold your breath. It's an excruciatingly slow process - so slow it doesn't even enter into the equation of how much oil is available for human consumption.H. Josef HebertAP Energy Writer, Washington***I have heard that oil companies negotiate contracts to buy oil for a 30-year period at a certain price. Supposedly, the price Exxon is paying now on one particular contract is $18 per barrel - as it has been for the last 20 years and will be for the next 10 years.Whether or not that is exactly true, I've got to wonder why we see DAILY price changes at our local gas stations.Tina KonczolWalker, La.ANSWER: Oil companies, including Exxon, do negotiate contracts with other producers to buy oil, but prices aren't fixed at $18 a barrel or any other price - they're dictated by the market and can change daily. The companies also often buy additional oil on the spot energy market when they need more oil than they're entitled to in these contracts.Marathon Oil Corp., for example, refines about 1 million barrels of oil a day but produces only about 200,000 barrels a day. So the company must buy hundreds of thousands of barrels daily from other producers and the spot market to satisfy its refining needs.Gas stations, meanwhile, change prices daily to ensure they're not charging more, or less, than what the market will bear. But they also change prices as they anticipate paying more, or less, for their next gasoline shipment. Stations have to fork over thousands of dollars to wholesale gasoline suppliers before they ever see a cent in return from their retail customers.John WilenAP Energy and Transportation Writer, New Yorkand John PorrettoAP Business Writer, Houston***How is it that gas stations can charge fractions of a cent for their product (i.e. the nine-tenths of a cent we see tacked onto each gallon)? Isn't it illegal to price goods or services such that they cannot be paid for, in full, in cash?Aaron MerrimanColumbia, Mo.ANSWER: Pricing gasoline in tenths of a cent is a vestige of a bygone era when a cent had considerably more value. Discounting the price of gas by one-tenth of a cent, in those days, meant something, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service.Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, says pricing in tenths of a cent is legal, noting that "mill" currency, or tenths of cents, was authorized by Congress in 1786, though it was never issued. Many taxes are expressed in tenths of a cent; for instance, the federal gas tax is 18.4 cents.One gas station owner who recently tried to do away with nine-tenths of a cent pricing was criticized ... for raising his prices by one-tenth of a cent, Lenard said.John WilenAP Energy and Transportation Writer, New York***The past couple of weeks I have seen and heard reports that because of crops being used for biofuel, the cost of food has risen significantly. I heard one report that 20 percent of the corn being grown in the United States has been used to produce ethanol.Aren't there other sources of biofuel that wouldn't cause this problem? I've seen a report that algae, for example, requires far less acreage than corn to produce equivalent amounts of fuel.Thomas McAfeeLittle Rock, Ark.ANSWER: Growing demand by ethanol and biodiesel producers for crops such as corn, sugarcane, soybeans and sunflower seeds is indeed helping drive food prices higher.There are numerous potential alternatives, including algae, "a very promising source for fuel," said Chris Dragisic, an analyst at the environmental organization Conservation International. But the use of algae and other alternatives to make biofuels is not yet commercially viable.Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, says the ethanol industry is exploring many other possible ethanol feedstocks, including wood chips, switchgrass, citrus waste and garbage.John WilenAP Energy and Transportation Writer, New YorkHave questions of your own? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.