New Hampshire bill addressing ‘hot fuel’ dies

| 4/3/2008

A bill in the New Hampshire Senate that has died sought to pursue a change to state law to help ensure that consumers get what they pay for at the fuel pump.

The Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee rejected a measure that addressed the problem of “hot fuel,” which has gained notoriety throughout the nation in recent months. Sponsored by Sen. Peter Burling, D-Cornish, the bill – SB382 – was ruled “inexpedient to legislate,” effectively killing it for the year.

Federal government standards define a gallon of fuel at 231 cubic inches at 60 degrees. The 60-degree mark is a century-old standard for the petroleum industry. When fuel is above the temperature threshold, the price becomes an issue for consumers because the amount of energy it produces drops, meaning fewer miles to the gallon.

The bill sought to require a gallon of diesel or gasoline to have its volume adjusted for changes in temperature. The state’s Department of Environmental Services would have defined the size of a temperature-adjusted gallon of fuel.

Burling’s bill called for the department to take into account the historical average temperature in the state and the amount by which a gallon of fuel at 60 degrees expands or contracts when heated or cooled to the historical average temperature. The amount of expansion or contraction should be used to determine the size of a temperature-adjusted gallon.

By Jan. 2011, the department would have been required to inspect each retail diesel and gasoline pump in the state to ensure compliance with the rules.

The issue of hot fuel is drawing attention nationwide. A congressional subcommittee met last year to point a critical finger at fuel retailers and oil companies for profiting from retail gas and diesel sold at temperatures topping 60 degrees.

Supporters of protections for consumers, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, contend that automatic temperature-compensation equipment should be installed on all U.S. fuel pumps. They say that would be the best way to ensure that consumers truly get their money’s worth at the pump.

Advocates for the equipment point out that such technology exists in Canada – where average fuel temperatures are generally below 60 degrees. In Canada, retailers and oil companies installed the equipment voluntarily after determining that cool fuel was eating into their profits.

The New Hampshire bill can be brought back before lawmakers during the 2009 regular session.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor