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"Motor Fuel Rip-off Notice" Stickers | Oil Watchdog

"Motor Fuel Rip-off Notice" Stickers

Sat, Aug 25, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    "Motor Fuel Rip-off Notice" Stickers

    The Kansas City Star (Missouri)
    August 25, 2007

    by Steve Everly, The Kansas City Star

    California group offers free stickers of displeasure on hot fuel

    "Warning. Motor Fuel Rip-off Notice."

    That message of displeasure is on a sticker a California group
    is offering to warn motorists about "hot fuel" — the effect of
    temperature fluctuation on gasoline and diesel fuel.

    The Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayer Rights in Santa Monica
    said it was inspired by two oil companies that recently started putting
    stickers on their retail fuel pumps because the amount of energy in
    each gallon can vary with the temperature.

    But the foundation’s sticker is larger — it measures 4 1/2
    inches by 5 1/2 inches — and includes language with a bit more bite.
    The sticker, for example, describes how rising temperatures cause
    gasoline to expand and deliver less energy — costing consumers "up to
    10 cents per gallon" at extreme temperatures.

    The sticker endorses U.S. Senate Bill 1997. The proposal
    introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri would require pumps
    that adjust for hot fuel so that consumers would receive a "fair
    gallon."

    Judy Dugan, the foundation’s research director, said the group
    wanted a sticker that was larger and more direct than the ones being
    used by ExxonMobil Corp. or Tesoro Corp., which began pasting their
    stickers on pumps earlier this summer. The foundation’s sticker is
    intended to not only raise consumer awareness of hot fuel but also
    point to a cure.

    "It’s important to fix it," Dugan said.

    Dugan said the stickers could be put where others could see
    them, such as on a vehicle’s back window or the door of a house. She
    emphasized that it would not be legal to paste them on retail gas
    pumps, which could be construed as posting on private property without
    permission.

    The physics of hot fuel are fairly straightforward. Fuel
    expands and contracts depending on temperature. At the longtime
    industry standard of 60 degrees, the 231-cubic-inch U.S. gallon puts
    out a certain amount of energy.

    But fuel is often sold at much higher temperatures, which
    causes the fuel to expand and the amount of energy to decline for each
    gallon dispensed. Indeed, a study by the National Institute of
    Standards and Technology found that the nationwide, year-round average
    temperature of retail fuel was 64.7 degrees — nearly five degrees
    above the standard.

    At other stages in the fuel-delivery chain, the industry
    routinely adjusts volume to account for temperature change using the
    60-degree industry standard. But retail pumps in America make no
    adjustment for changes in the volume caused by temperature, so
    consumers get only 231 cubic inches per gallon regardless of
    temperature.

    Notably, the industry has embraced selling temperature-adjusted
    fuel to consumers in Canada, where cooler temperatures would otherwise
    pinch profits for retailers.

    But the oil industry has opposed making any changes that would permit the temperature adjustment at retail in this country.

    In congressional hearings last month, executives from ExxonMobil
    and Shell Oil Products US said they supported more study of the issue.
    They went on to question whether consumers would see any benefit
    because fuel prices could increase if such a temperature adjustment was
    allowed or required.

    The ExxonMobil and Tesoro stickers are being viewed as a way to
    limit potential legal liability by seeking to inform consumers that
    they are purchasing fuel that has not been adjusted for temperature.

    ExxonMobil’s sticker, for instance, is labeled a "Motor Fuel Measurement Notice."

    "This device dispenses motor fuel by volume measured in
    gallons," states the ExxonMobil sticker. "It does not adjust the volume
    for variations in the temperature of the fuel. The temperature of motor
    fuel affects the energy content of each gallon dispensed."

    In a statement, Exxon Mobil said it was posting decals at Exxon
    and Mobil stations in California and Arizona to advise its customers
    "of the measurement basis under which fuel is legally allowed to be
    sold. … It is simply a reminder that motor fuel they are purchasing
    is sold by volume."

    Tesoro’s hot fuel decals, which are being installed in
    California and Arizona, state, for example, that the pump "dispenses
    motor fuel by volume measured in standard gallons (231 cubic inches),
    as certified by the California Division of Measurement Standards,
    without adjustment for possible variations due to temperature or other
    factors which may affect the energy content of each standard gallon
    dispensed."

    In a statement, spokeswoman Sarah Phipps said: "Tesoro did make
    a business decision to apply decals on our pumps. … However, we want
    to make it clear that we are squarely aligned with the industry on
    there being no merit to the hot fuels claims."
    ——
    Hot fuel stickers:

    Those wanting one of the free "Motor Fuel Ripoff Notice" stickers can order them at www.oilwatchdog.org/stickitbigoil or by calling 310-392-0522, ext. 326; or by dropping a note to:
    FTCR
    1750 Ocean Park Blvd., Suite 200
    Santa Monica, CA 90405
    —————
    To reach Steve Everly, call 816-234-4455 or send e-mail to severly@kcstar.com

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