Shell's decision to back away from alternative fuel research may explain why the company wants to push its fuel quality.

AP Photo/Reed Saxon

Fuel Quality vs. Alternative Fuel

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When Shell launche­d its advertising campaign pushing the new fuel, a series of commercials ran on several major channels, including MSNBC, Oxygen, USA, A&E, the Discovery Channel, ESPN, Speed and the Golf Channel. These ads, part of what Shell dubbed the "Passionate Experts" campaign, featured goofy, somewhat aloof scientists promoting the nitrogen-enriched fuel.

Shell's Web site has its own section dedicated to its nitrogen-enriched gasoline. The home page acts as a main lobby, with doors to rooms like the "Laboratory," the "Garage," the "Test Bay" and the "Lounge." You can click on any of these doors as you explore some information on Shell's product, but there's just as much cross-promotional material available as educational substance, if not more. For instance, banners for NASCAR events take you away from the page, and offers for Shell's frequent member card show up in strategic locations. And repeating animations of those silly scientists are there, too, trading secret handshakes, playing rock-paper-scissors and generally being inane.

Shell's engine-cleaning gas isn't technically anything new, either, since all gasoline products have been required by the EPA to include a minimum amount of additives and detergents [source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]. However, Shell's gasoline does meet and exceed TOP TIER Gasoline Detergent standards, which is a voluntary standard that several major automakers including Audi, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen created in order to improve the quality of gasoline.

But the most revealing reason behind Shell's efforts to push nitrogen-enriched gas might be its decision to suspend research on alternative fuels. In March 2009, Shell announced it would hold back indefinitely on funding and research for solar and wind power. Hydrogen power was given the boot, too. Analysts cited recent drops in oil prices and an economic downturn as possible reasons for the move [source: Hadhazy].

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