Erin Brockovich was passionate about confronting world pollution and a physics professor was confident in the technology, but I'm still skeptical about the real-world benefits of a magnetic treatment for fuel. Brockovich and Dr. Rongjia Tao of Temple University were featured speakers at a SEMA press conference for two products from Save The World Air. First is the MAGChargR, which is basically a magnet that is positioned after the carburetor or fuel injector. The magnetic field purportedly changes the molecular structure of the fuel, breaking up the fuel droplets to promote more efficient combustion; hence better fuel economy and less harmful emissions. The other is CAT-MATE, an enhanced catalytic converter that STWA says improves cold-start pollution-reduction efficiency.

The magenetic theory has been applied to other fuel-saving products. Many regulatory bodies and consumer groups, including the EPA, have found no significant improvements in automobiles. Literature from STWA emphasizes tests conducted by Chinese labs on carbureted two-stroke motorcycles. While the company says the technology is applicable to late-model vehicles, no evidence of tests on cars or trucks was presented at the press conference. Officials said they are in talks with the EPA to submit the products for testing. And the Rand Corporation says it is reviewing all compiled test data and will issue a report before year's end.

Company officials stressed that the technology is still emerging and additional products that address concerns from skeptics will be introduced. Retail price, depending on applications, would range from $30 up to $195, said one official. STWA also said the technology has been offered to major automakers but none has entered in negotiations.

Brockovich is a compelling speaker and there is no argument with her position on world pollution. I'm not a physics expert and can't debate the controlled laboratory experiments that Dr. Tao conducted. But there are many emerging technologies that show promise in the lab or on a virtual simulation program that have yet to relate in the real world. I'm not convinced any magnetic device will have "significant" effects on fuel economy or emissions on a late-model gas or diesel engine. I see much more potential in sophisticated fuel-spark mapping in the engine-management computer as a way to improve fuel economy. As for carbureted two-stroke motorcycle engines that have no pollution controls, I'm open to the possibility that the principles Dr. Tao advocates could make a noticeable improvement with the proper execution. I still need to see more test results on STWA products, hopefully from labs with which I'm familiar - such as Consumers Union - and which will completely disclose the test procedures to ensure consistency and repeatability.

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