The lousy 'hot fuel' verdict for drivers
The Kansas City Star
Drive up to the pumps on a searing day in Kansas City, throw $1.90 on the ground, and then start putting some 90-degree gasoline into your light truck or SUV.
Congratulations: You’ve just wasted money by buying “hot fuel.”
Unfortunately, following a recent court decision in Kansas, it’s not illegal for retailers in that state to sell gas that expands in hot weather, thus reducing its energy content. The oil industry often doesn’t tell customers that gasoline sold over the industry standard of 60 degrees provides less energy.
In the above example, a motorist driving a vehicle that gets 20 miles a gallon is paying 19 cents a mile when fuel is $3.80 a gallon. With an estimated loss of 2 percent mileage per gallon of hot fuel, a motorist with a 25-gallon tank could drive only 490 miles per fillup, not 500.
That’s a loss of 10 miles per fillup, or $1.90.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Some responsible retailers are installing pumps that adjust the volume of gasoline for the temperature at which it’s sold. Other retailers have settled with consumer groups, agreeing to tell consumers they are getting less energy than they are paying for on hot days.
But many oil companies and fuel retailers oppose these fixes, saying they would be too expensive.
The victory for retailers came when a federal jury in Kansas decided the sale of the fuel that rips off consumers does not violate the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
This appears to be little more than a case where the high standard of proving that motorists are being deceived couldn’t be met, at least to the satisfaction of jurors. Even with the verdict, it was untenable for one retailer to claim that the sale of hot fuel is “fair and accurate.”
It’s not, and the oil industry knows it. Take a look at what has been done in Canada, where it’s cold and gasoline contracts, providing more energy per gallon. The companies pushed for temperature-adjusted pumps that make sure Canadian motorists don’t get more energy than they paid for.
Something similar needs to happen in warm-weather states across the United States, including Kansas and Missouri. The use of pumps that adjust for the sale of hot fuel would save money for consumers and make sure the oil industry is fairly selling gasoline to them.