Solution likely coming within months to state’s pumps, Sen. Boxer says.
The Kansas City Star
Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has jumped into the hot-fuel debate, saying she expects consumers in her state will be able to buy fuel adjusted for temperature within months.
Boxer on Wednesday talked to the top executive of Gilbarco Veeder-Root, a North Carolina manufacturer that late last year sought California certification for a pump that would allow gas stations to start sell temperature-adjusted fuel.
Gilbarco, though, in February had said it was abandoning plans to sell the pump, with one official saying “we have to listen to our customers.” Persons close to the company said the decision was made after complaints from the oil industry.
That prompted Boxer, a Democrat, to intervene in the matter.
In a conversation with Gilbarco’s president Wednesday morning, Boxer said she “established” that the oil industry was not happy with the idea of Gilbarco selling the pump. But she said she believed that Gilbarco was now willing to sell the pumps as long as the specifications for them were similar to those for pumps the company already sells in Canada.
“It’s looking like we could have these pumps available,” Boxer said in an afternoon teleconference with reporters. “California is the place where all good things start.”
Gilbarco’s president, Martin Gafinowitz, was traveling and could not be reached for comment. Messages left for other Gilbarco executives were not returned.
The open question for the company may still be how much demand there will be from retailers. Although Gilbarco executives previously said they had gotten inquiries from retailers, they later said they were uncertain whether there was enough demand to justify the effort.
The Kansas City Star, in a series of stories beginning in August, explored the effects of hot fuel — when the fuel temperatures rise above 60 degrees.
The industry and regulators agreed nearly a century ago to use a 60-degree standard when determining the volume of a gallon of fuel. The standard has been virtually unknown to the average consumer.
The physics of hot fuel are fairly simple. Fuel expands and contracts depending on temperature. At 60 degrees, the 231-cubic-inch U.S. gallon puts out a certain amount of energy. But fuel is often sold at much hotter temperatures, causing the fuel to expand and the amount of energy, for each gallon of volume, to decrease.
At other stages in the fuel-delivery chain, the industry routinely adjusts volume for temperature change. But when fuel is sold at retail, consumers still get only 231 cubic inches per gallon, since retail pumps in America make no adjustment for changes in the volume caused by temperature.
Drawing on a nationwide database of retail gasoline and diesel-fuel storage tanks, The Star reported that the average nationwide, year-round temperature of fuel was 64.7 degrees. Based on prices in recent weeks, that means consumers are spending about $1.7 billion more on fuel annually than they would if the energy content of fuel met the standard.
At prices from recent weeks, The Starestimates, California consumers would save about $450 million annually if they bought fuel that was corrected for temperature. In contrast, the onetime cost of equipping pumps to make the adjustment would run about $105 million.
Boxer said it was clear, particularly in warm states such as California, that consumers would benefit from buying temperature-adjusted gasoline and diesel. She said she would be in touch with state officials in California to push making it a reality in her state.
“My role is helping California consumers,” she said.
Boxer’s decision to become involved in the issue elicited various responses.
“If she believes the technology should be employed without any investigation then we have a significant problem with that,” said Jay McKeeman, government relations director for the California Independent Oil Marketers Association. He added that the group questioned the benefits for consumers.
Jamie Court, president of The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said he expected Boxer’s involvement to make the day nearer when consumers in California would be able to buy temperature-adjusted fuel.
“I think Senator Boxer has moved the ball forward,” he said.
And if it is sold in California, some other states could follow. Several states will accept fuel pumps certified by California.
“If the device is (approved by California) it can be used legally in Arizona,” said Steve Meissner, the spokesman for the Arizona Weights & Measures Department.
In January, the National Conference on Weights and Measures, which establishes model codes for states to adopt, decided it would vote for the first time on whether temperature-corrected fuel should be allowed at retail pumps. The vote is to take place in July, but approval could be difficult as industry resistance mounts.
That would leave it to individual states.
Dennis Johannes, head of the California Division of Measurement Standards, said there was nothing in Handbook 44, published by the National Conference on Weights and Measures, that prohibits the retail sale of fuel that has been temperature-adjusted. As a result, it can be allowed in California.
As for making the California-certified pump similar to what is permitted in Canada — which is a concern of Gilbarco’s — Johannes said Wednesday the differences would not be a “big deal.”
Go to KansasCity.com to read more about hot fuel.
To reach Steve Everly, call (816) 234-4455 or send e-mail to [email protected]