Congressman Stands By Scientifically Inaccurate FTC “Opinion Letter,” Despite Withdrawal and Apology
Santa Monica, CA — OilWatchdog.org today challenged Rep. Darrell Issa of San Diego to debate the merits of fixing the “hot fuel” ripoff that costs U.S. motorists $2.3 billion a year and California drivers $450 million in lost fuel energy at the pump. The challenge follows Issa’s solicitation of a letter from the Federal Trade Commission intended to support his opposition to fixing the ripoff. (See OilWatchdog’s letter to Issa here.)
The opinion signed by FTC chair and former Chevron attorney Deborah Majoras, was released by Issa Sept. 5. Its publication jolted national weights and measures experts because it underestimated the effect of heat on fuel expansion by more than 90%, and used the faulty result to conclude that consumers are not harmed by such sales. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, chair of the House Domestic Policy subcommittee on which Issa also sits, wrote the FTC to point out its false conclusions. Majoras apologized and withdrew her original opinion Sept. 11, yet Issa continues to publish his approving statement on his web site, under the headline “FTC Rebuffs Democrats Over ‘Hot Fuels’ Fraud Allegations.”
In the challenge sent to Issa today, OilWatchdog and its sponsor, The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said:
“You were present at both House Domestic Policy subcommittee hearings on ‘hot fuel‘ this year and had access to its expert staff reports. Yet neither you nor your staff spotted the gross calculation errors in the FTC letter, written at your request. You released the letter as evidence that there is no reason for retail temperature compensation of gasoline and diesel fuels.
“The FTC’s analysis understated the effect on retail consumers from “hot fuel” by more than 90%, according to the National Institute on Standards and Technology. Consumers lose about a dollar’s worth of energy, or one-third of a gallon, on a 20-gallon fill-up when gasoline is at 85 degrees.
Your statement supporting the FTC letter is still posted on your web site, with only an opaque asterisked addendum saying the ‘coefficient of expansion’ in the FTC letter was in error. Your statement still links to the original, erroneous letter even though FTC chairwoman Deborah Majoras said on Sept. 11, ‘[T]he data we relied on was wrong. I highly regret the error, and I have directed my staff to conduct a thorough reassessment of the issue based on accurate data.’ Your site does not link to this second FTC letter.”
Judy Dugan and Jamie Court, founders of OilWatchdog.org, said they want Rep. Issa to debate one or both of them at the time and place of Issa’s choice.
“Rep. Issa has taken at least $63,000 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry just through 2006,” said Dugan. “His unscientific opposition to even acknowledging the unfairness of ‘hot fuel‘ sales is a slap to his constituents in sunny San Diego, and a boon to the refiners and marketers of gasoline and diesel. Voters deserve to hear him explain this contradiction.”
OilWatchdog and FTCR have also filed a Federal Freedom of Information Act request for the Federal Trade Commission’s sources in reaching its erroneous opinion.
The federal “standard temperature” for fuel is 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Like all liquids, gasoline expands at higher temperatures and loses energy. At the refinery and wholesale level, sales of gasoline and diesel are usually adjusted for temperature, with the buyer receiving an extra measure of fuel to make up for the expansion. At retail, however, motorists receive a gallon that is always the same volume, with no compensation for temperature. U.S. Manufacturers already produce retail gas pump equipment that compensates for temperature expansion and contraction, which is a common practice in Canada. (Canada’s cooler temperatures mean the sellers benefit from temperature compensation).
“Rep. Issa needs to either go back to science class or defend his position in public,” said Dugan. “We’re offering him the opportunity to make his position clear, whether it’s science-based or not.”
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a leading nonprofit and nonpartisan consumer watchdog group. For more information visit us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org and www.OilWatchdog.org.