High fuel prices exacerbate Hot Gas fight

A woman  in Oregon this week  filed a federal lawsuit alleging that major oil companies are chiseling motorists by selling overly warm gas that delivers less energy than it should, according to an Associated Press report.  This  case  is only one of  over 30 such lawsuits filed across the US this year claiming the exact same thing: gasoline retailers are gauging the public with what the industry calls “Hot Fuel” or any fuels stored and sold above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  The premise behind all the lawsuits – which ultimately could become one enormous class action suit -- is that at  60-degree standard, a gallon of fuel delivers a certain amount of energy, or Btu. But expanded by higher temperatures, that same amount of fuel delivers less energy. The warmer the fuel, the less Btu and fewer miles to the gallons a vehicle will get. Consequently, if a vehicle averages 6 miles per gallon, 200 gallons of 98-degree fuel is going to carry you 36 fewer miles than 60-degree fuel. Most of the lawsuits are aimed at  ExxonMobile, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP America, Supervalu and Shell and are being backed by Ralph Nader’s consumer group Public Citizen and many were sparked by a series of reports in the  Kansas City Star that said the average year-round temperature of gasoline and diesel in service station tanks is 64.7 degrees, which means consumers pay an additional $1.7 billion a year. A variety of opponents to the lawsuit claims have popped up.  One a group of Independent petroleum marketers, known as the  Partnership for Uniform Marketing Practices (PUMP) says that no statistically reliable data suggests consumers are being adversely impacted under the existing system and any variation from the standard reference temperature balances out for consumers based on year-round, seasonal averages.

Meanwhile Fuel retailers and oil companies have asked a panel of federal judges to consolidate numerous lawsuits relating to “hot fuel.”  All of this in the face of gas prices that continue to rise and show no signs of slowing down.   

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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