California watchdog group cries foul on big oil

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Land Line Magazine

The Foundation of Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is calling for an investigation into whether pressure from oil companies contributed to a fuel pump manufacturer withdrawing certified equipment from the market — equipment that some people say would have solved a number of issues relating to “hot fuel.”

Hot fuel refers to fuel sold above a standard temperature of 60 degrees — the temperature where a gallon is truly a gallon by volume and by the amount of energy it contains.

As oil company profits soar, and retailers continue to sell fuel without compensating for expansion due to higher temperatures, pump manufacturer Gilbarco Veeder-Root is withdrawing its bid to bring temperature-compensation devices for fuel pumps to market, according to the consumer rights group.

In addition to the request for an investigation by the California Attorney General, the group is also calling on U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, to hold hearings to force the oil companies to stop exerting pressure on Gilbarco or other manufacturers.

“California is the test case for the temperature-adjusted pump in America,” foundation President Jamie Court stated in a press release. “We must not allow one powerful industry to foil a fair and honest accounting for American motorists.”

Calls by Land Line to Gilbarco regarding the situation were not returned.

However, spokeswoman Lucy Sackett, in a previous conversation with “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio, said the withdrawal of the equipment was based on logistics and a software problem.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights went further, insinuating that it was big oil that caused Gilbarco to pull back.

A spokesman for another equipment manufacturer, Kraus Global of Canada, told Land Line Magazine that his company was ready to step up, get certified in California, and lead the way to marketing such devices.

Fuel retailers drove the market in Canada to install temperature-compensation equipment in the 1990s, because the fuel temperature there generally averages at or below 60 degrees.

U.S. laws currently do not require fuel retailers to compensate for fuel temperatures.

Plaintiffs involved in five federal lawsuits filed in December 2006 by consumers — including several owner-operators and OOIDA member — hope to change that. Those lawsuits ask that the federal courts order retailers to use temperature-compensation equipment.

OOIDA is not a party in those lawsuits, which were filed in California, New Jersey, Kansas and Missouri, but OOIDA Foundation project leader John Siebert has led the way in research on the topic of hot fuel.

The Kansas City Star, in a report inspired by Siebert’s research, estimated that hot fuel costs consumers between $1.7 billion and $2.3 billion per year.
Contact the author at: [email protected]

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