The gasoline pill or gasoline powder is claimed to turn water into gasoline, which can be used to run an combustion engine. The gasoline pill is one of several claims of suppressed inventions that circulate as urban legends. Usually these urban legends allege a conspiracy theory that the oil industry seeks to suppress the technology that turns water to gasoline.
In the United States, the best known claim to have created a gasoline pill was the work of one Guido Franch, who was active from the 1950s through the 1970s. Franch called the resulting liquid Mota fuel, mota being atom spelled backwards.
Guido Franch was a blue collar worker who lived in Livingston, Illinois. His invention was a green powder that was added to water, which he claimed had actually been invented by a fictitious German scientist named Dr. Alexander Kraft. Franch took money from a number of small investors who read about his claims in the National Tattler or a similar publication. In what became a frequent motif, he claimed that the water-into-gasoline powder formula could not be disclosed for fear that the oil industry would have it suppressed. Franch, when pressed into providing samples of his transmutation powder, produced samples of green food coloring.
As a result of his activities, Franch was prosecuted several times for fraud. His first trial in 1954 resulted in his acquittal when a prosecution witness admitted that it might be possible that "mota fuel" worked. His second trial in 1979 resulted in his conviction.
In 1916, Louis Enricht claimed to have a water to gasoline pill. Enricht was convicted of fraud in a related case, claiming to have a method for extracting gasoline from peat, and served time in Sing Sing prison. In 1917, John Andrews pitched a water to gasoline powder to the United States Navy. Andrews disappeared after making his pitch, but it turned out that he had returned to Canada, where he was serving in the Canadian Navy.
In 1996, Ramar Pillai claimed to be able to transmute water to gasoline by a herbal formula that he claimed was the result of a miraculous bush. Pillai obtained 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land to cultivate his bush, but in fact it turned out that he was using sleight of hand to substitute kerosene for the liquid he claimed to have derived from the bush.
The 1940s television/radio show People are Funny performed a stunt in which an unsuspecting crowd at Hollywood and Vine were sold "Atom Pills" at a quarter apiece. A "scientist" claimed that one pill could do the work of a hundred gallons of gasoline. When the stunt was revealed, few of the dozens who had fought to buy the pills came up to get their money back.
In episode 254 of The Simpsons, "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes," Homer is trapped on a mysterious island with, among others, a Number 27 who is trapped there because she knows how to turn water into gasoline.