If you been following the latest news related to the U.S. economy, than you may have read about the overwhelming success of the U.S. “cash for clunkers” program, which provides a cash incentive for owners of older, less fuel efficient cars, to purchase a new, more fuel efficient car. A certain provision of the program has created unanticipated demand for the chemical sodium silicate.

An article featured in today’s Wall Street Journal, The Killer App for Clunkers, (subscription may be required) outlines that this government trade-in program calls for the engines on all the vehicles that are turned-in to be immobilized with this chemical, in-essence, seizing the engines.  

The irony was that no one in the government notified the distributors of this chemical of this requirement.  Sodium silicate itself is not difficult to produce and is widely available, that is of course if someone in the supply chain is aware of a new source of product demand.  The article describes how local distributors have been overwhelmed by orders from automotive dealers, in some cases having to work 16 hours straight to keep-up with dealer demand.  This same dealer, who had sold only 150 gallons of the chemical in an entire year, has sold 4600 gallons thus far.

With all things considered in this economy, I thought that this story should be categorized within our more positive stories series, although certain demand planners in chemical companies may chose to disagree.

One other humorous sidelight described in this article is that the mechanics at various dealers have been hosting spectator competitions where there are time trails to determine how long an engine runs before it totally seizes.  The article cites a Lawrence Kansas event where a 1998 Dodge van engine lasted more than six minutes, outlasting a 2002 Ford Windstar  and a 1999 Jeep. 

My prediction is that Toyota 4Runner V6 engine will last longer in these time trails.  What’s your prediction as to the engine that will last longer before seizure?

Bob Ferrari