3-06-08 by dugan
$4.00 gasoline isn’t a prediction any more, despite the fact that President Bush hadn’t heard a word about it. There are California stations charging up to $3.99 for regular and nearly $4.20 for premium. The state average for regular is at a record $3.52 a gallon. The rest of the nation is just weeks away from catching up. At these prices, "hot fuel" will rob motorists of $2.00 or more per fill-up this summer, all of it extra profit for retailers and ultimately the oil companies themselves.
No wonder the petroleum industry is training its big guns against our efforts to fix hot fuel.
BP, Conoco Phillips, the American Petroleum Institute and the law firm of Shook, Hardy and Bacon (best known for its tobacco defenses) all sent executives this week to an advisory meeting of the California Energy Commission, intending to kill state hot fuel reforms before they get written.
Big Oil is also sharpening its lobbying aim against a U.S. Senate bill that would require fair sale of fuel by temperature nationally.
The National Conference on Weights and Measures, which should be crafting a hot fuel fix, instead sent an emissary to mouth the industry line at the California meeting on Tuesday. The speaker, Ross Anderson, is a New York state weights and measures employee,in a faraway gasoline market with its own rules. It makes me wonder why he’s (A) telling California how to set its regulations, and (B) who’s paying for his time, because the American Petroleum Institute is a source of funds for NCWM.
Anderson concluded that customers have no right to know anything about wholesale gasoline prices or retail profits or practices, comparing the gasoline industry to Macys or Wal-Mart. What he didn’t mention is that when we buy a drill at Wal-Mart, we can examine the quality and specs of the merchandise. Can’t do that with gasoline temperature, can we? He also asserted that the problem just isn’t big enough to deserve a fix.
Not big enough? When gasoline at the pump is 90 degrees, pretty common in hot states in summer, drivers paying around $4.00 a gallon lose 8 cents of that to heat expansion. On an SUV’s 30-gallon tank, the loss is $2.40.For more background on hot fuel, click here.
In Washington, there’s a hint of progress. A Senate bill that would require retail pumps to adjust for temperature variation is rising from the deep freeze. The temperature-sensing pumps would deliver a slightly larger gallon when gasoline is above 60 degrees, compensating for heat expansion that robs the fuel of energy.
Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the author of the "Fair Fuel" act, formally requested on Tuesday that the bill get a hearing in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. It’s the first step toward a vote. As temperatures rise, so will pressure to act.
The good news: Chairman Daniel Inouye is from Hawaii, which already pumps larger gallons to compensate for heat expansion, so he understands the issue.
The bad news: The ranking Republican on the committee (and former chairman) is Alaska’s Ted Stevens, among Big Oil’s very best friends.
Please encourage Sen. Inouye to grant a full, fair hearing to the FAIR Fuel Act, and actively help it get to a vote of the full Senate.
The more that drivers hear about hot fuel, the hotter under the collar they’ll be.