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Lubes-N-Greases Editor Examines the Ethics of Motor Oil Drain Intervals

L UBES-N-GREASES AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR David McFall wrote an intriguing column on extended drain intervals in March 2003 in which he openly criticized the American motor oil market and the standard 3000-mile oil change. He pointed to the European market, where drain intervals are generally twice as long as in the US, to demonstrate his point that the American motor oil market is "shackled," and he concluded the standard 3000-mile oil change is promoted primarily to increase motor oil sales at the expense of consumers and the environment. McFall also took the time to praise AMSOIL, INC for its extended drain technology.

In the December 2003 issue of Lubes-n-Greases, McFall posted a follow-up column in which he further questioned the logic and responsibility behind standard 3000-mile drain intervals. He quotes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as stating, "improperly disposed used oil is the largest single source of oil pollution fouling our nation's waters."

Considering used motor oil can have long-term negative effects on the environment, McFall finds it irresponsible for motor oil companies to continue promoting shorter drain intervals when the technology exists to produce higher quality oils capable of extended drains. "While the nuclear power industry would not support the production of excess uranium fuel," writes McFall, "it is not inconceivable that the US oil industry would support, encourage, and skillfully promote excess gasoline engine oil usage, despite the harmful effects of its waste product on the environment."

McFall supports his conclusion with three valid arguments. First, the average drain interval in Europe is twice as long as in the US despite similarities in engines, motor oil, and driving patterns. Second, despite three US motor oil quality upgrades over the past 10 years, drain interval recommendations haven't budged. Here, McFall commends AMSOIL again for being the single company to translate motor oil quality upgrades into extended drain intervals. Third, although many American motor oil companies say their products "exceed" oil industry specifications, they still don't recommend drain intervals over 3000 miles.

McFall explains that in today's business world, some companies have had to look at their marketing techniques from an ethical standpoint, often at the expense of sales. Kraft Foods, for example, voluntarily agreed to stop selling certain unhealthy food products in schools. He wonders if the pollution consequences of used motor oil impose an ethical burden on the motor oil industry to reduce the harmful effects of this pollution, even if it results in reduced sales.

An interview with Dr Michael Hoffman, executive director of Bentley College's Center for Business Ethics in Waltham, MA, helped McFall answer his question. "Any corporation that makes a product which creates exceptional hazardous effects on the environment has an increased obligation to find solutions to decrease those effects," says Hoffman. "A universal or absolute business ethics principle is to avoid causing unjustifiable harm, and to find strategies to reduce harm, especially that which is self-caused, whenever or wherever possible to do so.

"These comments certainly apply to used engine oil, and challenge the oil industry to demonstrate that it is doing everything possible to meet this ethical standard. Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that this is not happening.

"Furthermore, continues Hoffman, "corporate ethical sensitivity and social responsibility are at a high water mark today, and perhaps more than ever before in the minds of companies' stockholders. So much so, in fact, that companies which demonstrate that they have developed an ethical edge will gain competitive edge in the market, which might be called the business case for business ethics. The oil industry would do well to grasp this insight and become more transparent and forthcoming about the information it has and the progress it's making toward increasing the drain interval if engine oil."

AMSOIL Synthetic Motor OIls offer unsurpassed protection and performance while significantly reducing the effects of used motor oil on the environment. As the leader in extended drain technology, AMSOIL offers motor oils with three drain interval recommendations. AMSOIL XL Extended Life Synthetic Motor OIls offer up to 7,500 mile / 6-month drain intervals, AMSOIL Synthetic Motor OIls offer up to 25,000 mile / one-year drain intervals, and AMSOIL Series 2000 0W-30 Motor Oil offers up to a 35,000-mile / one-year drain interval.

David McFall's December 2003 column "Motor Oil Drain Intervals: An Ethical Burden?" is available for online reading at the AMSOIL corporate website: HERE.

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