(4/02 correction: Average California gasoline temperature based on raw data of study is 71.1 degrees, not 76.4, based on raw data from state study). A year-long study of gasoline temperatures
in the state finished up yesterday and is now posted online.
The average yearly fuel temperature in California came out at 71.2
degrees, lower than an earlier, smaller federal study. But no measurements were taken in Imperial and Kern counties, in the hottest inland south part of the state. If that’s corrected, using data from a similar county like San Bernardino, the result will certainly be a few degrees higher. Even with this flaw, it’s proof that Californians do, on average, get less energy than they think they’re buying in a gallon of gas.
Gasoline expands in heat and loses 1% of its energy for every 15 degrees above the 60-degree federal baseline on which a gallon is measured. So, on average, in all parts of the state, drivers lose about 50 to 60 cents per fill-up. In Southern California, probably close to double that. What’s at least as important is the study’s finding of wide variations in temperature in the same town in the same day. On one day in Los Angeles, the variation was more than 25 degrees.
On Sept. 22, 2007,
testers from the state’s weights and measures office found one LA
station selling gasoline at 96.5 degrees, and another LA station at
70.1 degrees. That’s a 26.4-degree difference, and we’ll probably never
know why. But here’s the bottom line: The driver buying 20 gallons at
the hotter station paid $2.25 for energy lost to expansion. The
motorist stopping at the cooler station lost "only" 62 cents, assuming
a per-gallon cost of $3.70. Worse, there is absolutely no way for
drivers to tell which station has the better bargain on temperature.
California is the only state so far to do such a study.
are the only ones in the dark about the value they’re getting. Refiners, wholesalers and retailers know
the temperature of the gasoline that passes through their hands.
Wholesalers and retailers in California are compensated for the
expansion of warmer gasoline, and profit from selling it on a gallon sized at 60 degrees. That’s why hot fuel has to be fixed, to
put everyone on even ground. More info here on hot fuel and our fight to fix it.