The lowly gas can. A staple in almost every garage in America, storing a little bit of gasoline for the lawn mower, weed whacker, snow blower, and chain saw. Unchanged for nearly 50 years.
Thanks CARB and EPA.
Back in 2008 the California Air Resources Board had stomped out all the major sources of air pollution in California, so they turned their Sauron-like gaze upon the evil, fume-spewing, toxin-dripping gas can as the next target of their regulatory empire. They mandated new containers and spouts that would eliminate those noxious off-gasses that contribute to smog in the valleys, and also prevent any possibility of spilling gas onto the ground. Of course, we all know what happens when bureaucrats design a new device, right?
Yep, that's right. The new gas cans with CARB-compliant spouts require three hands (at a minimum) to operate, inevitably cause the user to spill far more gasoline with each refuel of a lawn mower than he managed to spill over the previous decade in total, and flows with the velocity of a mouse with a bad prostate. So, ingenious Californians that we are, we've resorted to throwing the useless spouts away and simply pouring the gasoline from the container into a funnel, thereby eliminating all spillage and at the same time releasing approximately ten times the amount of aromatic fumes as before CARB got involved in the man-machine relationship.
Thus having proven the wisdom of bureaucrat-designed gas cans, the Federal government then decided that they should adopt CARB's brilliant dictates and apply them across this fruited plain. And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by Joe Sixpack, followed by many YouTube videos of how to defeat the CARB/EPA dictated-designs with drills, duct tape, a six pack, and a poorly focused video camera. Meanwhile, enterprising individuals were selling pre-ban gas cans on eBay for $80 as a new wave of all-American handymen struggled in vain with latches, clasps, and leaking connectors, finally turning in frustration to their children for solutions (just like they did when they needed to get the child-proof cap off the aspirin bottle last time).
So what is an average, red-blooded American supposed to do about this? Give up and be content that it now takes 30 minutes to refill the lawn mower via the government-approved spout? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell, no!
Let me save you the trouble of viewing tens of YouTube videos, conducting dozens of Google searches, and plowing through hundreds of posts on various forums. Let's cut to the chase and get to what works right the first time.
First, if you were already unlucky enough to buy a CARB-compliant gas can then there's the EZ-POUR spout that'll replace that flaccid, underperforming CARB spout with a high-flow, no-drip version like you used to have back in the day. And here we see our first all-American artful dodge around the regulatory goliath: You can buy an EZ-POUR Fuel spout if you live in a non-CARB state, but if you live in a CARB state you need to buy the EZ-POUR Water spout. Yep, that's right. Same spout, but with different packaging and use instructions, make it legal when you say it's to be used with water, not fuel. (Ain't America wonderful?)
If you're in the market for a new gas can for general , they all suck because they all come with CARB-compliant spouts, so buy whatever floats your boat and then order an EZ-POUR.
However, if you're using your gas can to store gas for longer than a month or so, then you need to be more selective about the kind of can you get. Most cheap plastic cans will work fine for short-term use, but they have a couple of drawbacks if you try to use them for longer-term storage. First, the plastic isn't completely impermeable, so the lighter aeromatics that are part of your gasoline will slowly escape through the plastic, reducing its performance. Second, the plastic is flexible so the walls of the container will noticeably expand and contract as the day warms and cools, making it difficult to stack and store containers made of this material.
If you're looking for long-term storage (more than a month), you need to look at steel, son. (They got it wrong in The Graduate when it comes to gas cans.) Steel is impermiable, and it's stiffer so it won't flex and cause problems if you need to stack cans on top of each other. But where to find steel cans that don't have the same fevered bureaucrat's dream of a spout?
As of this moment there are two companies selling genuine NATO "Jerry" cans: Atlantic British and Deutsche Optik. OK, OK, I hear you saying that Genuine US Military Gas Cans are what we should be buying, not some product endorsed by a blue-helmeted, child-raping organization.(1) Well, most militaries in the world have gravitated to Scepter's plastic gas cans. These are great for temporary (less than a month) storage, as they can take a beating better than metal cans. However, because they're plastic they aren't suited to long-term storage, and because Scepter sells primarily to government organizations they generally aren't available for civilian sales. You can find them for sale on eBay for $70+ each, but at that price they're the same price as a quality metal can.
Now, to get around the CARB silliness both Atlantic British (AB) and Deutsche Optik (DO) mark their cans as not suitable for gasoline; AB uses stickers, while DO has their cans embossed with "Not For Fuel Use". Both are approximately the same price when you factor in shipping, so if having this warning embossed in the side of your can is going to give you the heebie jeebies, then order from AB. Otherwise, there's no difference between the cans, and in fact they probably come from the same manufacturer.
If you're still not convinced that a steel NATO can is the what you need to be using to safely store gasoline for extended periods (like, you know, when all the California refineries experience problems and suddenly there's no gas available for purchase, anywhere), then take a look at http://www.survivalmonkey.com/pages/portable-fuel-storage/ for a comparison of the different military can types, and http://www.expeditionexchange.com/wedco/ (scroll down past the items for sale) for the reasons why Wedco's design, a perfect rip-off of the German design from WWII and available from AB or DO, is what you should be investing in.
I consider it your patriotic duty to flip CARB and the EPA a figurative bird and buy at least one NATO "not for fuel use" can.
(1) Whoops! Thanks, Mike—looks like I confused NATO and the UN for a moment there. I blame it on the fumes from my CARB-approved gas can.