September 18, 2007
CONTACT: Judy Dugan, 310-392-0522, ext. 305, or cell: 213-280-0175, or Jamie Court, ext. 327, or cell: 310-874-9989
Consumer Group Challenges Rep. Darrell Issa On "Hot Fuel" Ripoff of Motorists;
Congressman Stands By Scientifically Inaccurate FTC "Opinion Letter," Despite Withdrawal and Apology
Santa Monica, CA — OilWatchdog.org today challenged Rep. Darrell
Issa of San Diego to debate the merits of fixing the "hot fuel" ripoff
that costs U.S. motorists $2.3 billion a year and California drivers
$450 million in lost fuel energy at the pump. The challenge follows
Issa’s solicitation of a letter from the Federal Trade Commission
intended to support his opposition to fixing the ripoff. (See OilWatchdog’s letter to Issa here.)
The opinion signed by FTC chair and former Chevron attorney
Deborah Majoras, was released by Issa Sept. 5. Its publication jolted
national weights and measures experts because it underestimated the
effect of heat on fuel expansion by more than 90%, and used the faulty
result to conclude that consumers are not harmed by such sales. Rep.
Dennis Kucinich, chair of the House Domestic Policy subcommittee on
which Issa also sits, wrote the FTC to point out its false conclusions.
Majoras apologized and withdrew her original opinion Sept. 11, yet Issa
continues to publish his approving statement on his web site, under the
headline "FTC Rebuffs Democrats Over ‘Hot Fuels’ Fraud Allegations."
In the challenge sent to Issa today, OilWatchdog and its sponsor, The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said:
"You were present at both House Domestic Policy subcommittee
hearings on ‘hot fuel’ this year and had access to its expert staff
reports. Yet neither you nor your staff spotted the gross calculation
errors in the FTC letter, written at your request. You released the
letter as evidence that there is no reason for retail temperature
compensation of gasoline and diesel fuels.
"The FTC’s analysis understated the effect on retail
consumers from "hot fuel" by more than 90%, according to the National
Institute on Standards and Technology. Consumers lose about a dollar’s
worth of energy, or one-third of a gallon, on a 20-gallon fill-up when
gasoline is at 85 degrees.
Your statement supporting the FTC letter is still
posted on your web site, with only an opaque asterisked addendum saying
the ‘coefficient of expansion’ in the FTC letter was in error. Your
statement still links to the original, erroneous letter even though FTC
chairwoman Deborah Majoras said on Sept. 11, ‘[T]he data we relied on
was wrong. I highly regret the error, and I have directed my staff to
conduct a thorough reassessment of the issue based on accurate data.’
Your site does not link to this second FTC letter."
Judy Dugan and Jamie Court, founders of OilWatchdog.org, said
they want Rep. Issa to debate one or both of them at the time and place
of Issa’s choice.
"Rep. Issa has taken at least $63,000 in campaign
contributions from the oil and gas industry just through 2006," said
Dugan. "His unscientific opposition to even acknowledging the
unfairness of ‘hot fuel’ sales is a slap to his constituents in sunny
San Diego, and a boon to the refiners and marketers of gasoline and
diesel. Voters deserve to hear him explain this contradiction."
OilWatchdog and FTCR have also filed a Federal Freedom of
Information Act request for the Federal Trade Commission’s sources in
reaching its erroneous opinion.
The federal "standard temperature" for fuel is 60 degrees
Fahrenheit. Like all liquids, gasoline expands at higher temperatures
and loses energy. At the refinery and wholesale level, sales of
gasoline and diesel are usually adjusted for temperature, with the
buyer receiving an extra measure of fuel to make up for the expansion.
At retail, however, motorists receive a gallon that is always the same
volume, with no compensation for temperature. U.S. Manufacturers
already produce retail gas pump equipment that compensates for
temperature expansion and contraction, which is a common practice in
Canada. (Canada’s cooler temperatures mean the sellers benefit from
"Rep. Issa needs to either go back to science class or defend
his position in public," said Dugan. "We’re offering him the
opportunity to make his position clear, whether it’s science-based or
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a leading
nonprofit and nonpartisan consumer watchdog group. For more information
visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org and www.OilWatchdog.org.