08-29-07 by dugan
Whew. The tone is entirely different this morning at the Weights and Measures meeting. The moderators have regained control, Mr. Lobbyist has fled back to Washington, and folks aren’t talking over one another. It’s more or less back to nerd-dom, which is fine.
The discussion this morning is still more political than technical, about how–and over how many years–temperature compensation of gasoline could be introduced. The opinions range from six years (me and the truckers’ representative, John S.) to 20 years, which is tantamount to doing nothing. But the heat is out of the balloon, mostly because the political issues like timeline don’t have to be settled here.
Some of the technical professionals here have quietly said they’re glad a consumer organization like Oilwatchdog is here and speaking up. But they agree that the battle will be settled at the low-profile regional meetings, which in practice are clubbier and less open. Individual consumers have no chance of participating, for lack of time and money. And Oilwatchdog has no army of lobbyists and professionals.
Bottom line: The National Conference on Weights and Measures is a strange hybrid. It is not governmental, but it is regulatory. Its membership is open, in practice allowing the industries that are regulated to have the loudest voice. When a measurement issue becomes political, as hot fuel has, the NCWM’s "consensus" model breaks down.
This meeting has shown that fixing hot fuel will be simpler and less expensive than the opponents assert. The experts here acknowledge that temperature fluctuations in gasoline are much wider, and the high temperatures probably much higher, than previously believed. Yet the consumer side still has an uphill battle to create change.
As to why government conceded such important regulation to a private membership body, that’s another long story that we hope someone will tell.