Hot fuel is ripping you off at the pump
February 02, 2007
Rep. Kate Meiners (D-Kansas City) has introduced a bill that is intended to make sure consumers get what they pay for at the fuel pump. HB105 would require a gallon of diesel or gasoline to have its volume adjusted for changes in temperature.

According to a summary of the bill, not accounting for the temperature change leads to what is commonly referred to as "hot fuel." The change in temperature is an issue because when fuel gets hot and expands the amount of energy it produces drops significantly.

The bill, which has been referred to the House Transportation Committee, requires that all gasoline and diesel fuel sold at retail be measured by the temperature-adjusted gallon. The Department of Agriculture must define the size of a temperature-adjusted gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel for each district in the state. The criteria to determine the size of a temperature-adjusted gallon is specified in the bill as well as the counties comprising each district. In addition, it is designed to:

  1. Promulgate rules to implement this provision no later than January 1, 2008.

  2. Require each retail gasoline and diesel fuel pump in the state to measure in temperature-adjusted gallons no later than December 31, 2008.

  3. Inspect each retail gasoline and diesel fuel pump to ensure compliance no later than December 31, 2008.

Although the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures that we have been experiencing make springtime seem light years away, the reality is that spring will come soon enough, and with its arrival spring time activities will be in full bloom. Farmers will fuel up their big rigs, tractors, and other pieces of machinery to begin planting their crops. College students will fuel up their vehicles and travel to hot spots across the country for spring break. Parents will fuel up their family's transportation and navigate America's highways for vacation. The nation will be in a buzz of fuel-induced activity, and everyone will be getting ripped off. So warns Rene Hill, a Missouri State Legislative Affairs Specialist.

"Whether you're pumping diesel or gasoline, you expect to get what you pay for. You do - only if the fuel coming out of that nozzle is 60 degrees. With anything warmer than that you're getting cheated," explains Jami Jones in an article she wrote for Land Line magazine in March/April 2005.

In answering the question of how much expansion and contraction there is with diesel and gasoline, Jones states that "estimates vary on average from one to three percent just for diesel, depending on how hot it is and whom you ask."

So if that gasoline or diesel you just pumped into your car, truck, mini-van, sports utility vehicle, or big rig is hotter than 60 degrees, you're getting less fuel than what you're paying for, Hill points out.

During the summer months, especially, fuel can be delivered to a tank at a temperature that is nearly 40 degrees hotter than the benchmark used at the wholesale level. So if the fuel's temperature is not compensated for at the pump, the gallon pumped into your tank will be less dense and, therefore, less powerful.

An Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) study of 32 fill-ups around the country found in the summer of 2004 that the coolest fuel was at 71 degrees. The hottest fuel was 98 degrees.

"Where does this scandal stop? It can stop at the pump if you get involved," says Hill. "Technology already exists in today's digital fuel pumps to calculate the amount of fuel dispensed standardized to the same 60-degree benchmark at which retailers buy the fuel, thereby reducing your power loss. Retail stations have the technology, but for what seems to be obvious reasons, they are not excited about voluntarily turning on a temperature-compensation feature at their pumps."

"If you want to stop getting ripped off at the pump, and stop paying for more fuel than is actually being pumped into your gas tank, then call your Missouri state representatives and tell them to put a stop to 'hot fuel'," Hill concludes.

With the encouragement of OOIDA, the National Council of Weights and Measures, meeting in Florida recently, has agreed to look into a proposal to provide fuel retailers who want to install temperature-compensation devices with guidelines and procedures that would make everyone happy.

Under their proposal:

The article by Jones with contributions from Senior Technical Editor Paul Abelson and OOIDA Foundation’s John Siebert entitled, "Hot fuel not a hot deal--Retailers cashing in on fuel expansion" that appeared in the March/April 2005 issue of Land Line magazine may be found here.

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