SPECIAL REPORT: Lack of votes doesn’t dissuade hot fuel hopefuls

| 7/12/2007

Thursday, July 12, 2007 – The National Conference on Weights and Measures failed to reach a required number of favorable votes Wednesday, July 11, to approve model guidelines for states to use should they decide to require automatic temperature-compensation devices on retail fuel pumps.

Although the guidelines would not be mandatory for states, the measure supporting automatic temperature compensation would have been an important step toward the eventual end of "hot fuel" - gasoline or diesel sold at temperatures higher than 60 degrees.

The National Conference on Weights and Measures' House of States voted 23-16 in favor of adding the proposed guidelines to their handbook, but the agenda item required 27 votes to be approved. The total number of voting members in the conference is 53, but 11 of those were either absent or did not vote.

"In one way it was a loss, and in another way, it was a fantastic gain because it shows the opponents of it were the minority," John Siebert, project leader for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association Foundation, told Land Line. "And it also has them on record as saying that we're going to pass it next year."

Siebert said the vote was close to passing despite another motion on the table to shelve the agenda item entirely.

"It would have been nice to have the other four votes, but we were still close to it passing," Siebert said.

He added that, just two-and-a-half years ago, weights and measures officials were not at all interested in voting on temperature compensation at retail pumps.

"To have brought the group this far is fantastic," Siebert said.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, was not so optimistic. The chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said Weights and Measures had a chance to act but chose not to.

"This is a defeat for consumers and for the economy, which requires accurate measurement for its proper functioning," Kucinich said in a prepared statement.

"Unfortunately, it seems that the National Conference on Weights and Measures could be incapable of fulfilling its role of ensuring accurate measurements, and that would send a clear signal to Washington that it might require Congress to take action," Kucinich said.

Kucinich called the first-ever congressional hearing on hot fuel June 8, where his staff unveiled a study saying hot fuel would cost consumers $1.5 billion this summer alone.

Kucinich called a second hearing for July 25 specifically to get representatives from Shell Oil Co. and Exxon-Mobil Corp. to testify about retail fuel practices.

Shell Oil Co. officials confirmed to Land Line that the company plans to send a representative to the hearing to testify on the matter of hot fuel.

Exxon-Mobil Corp. did not return calls.

Siebert remains positive about the effects of the National Conference on Weights and Measures vote, despite the lack of results.

"The people that opposed it, opposed it on the grounds that it needed one more year," Siebert said. "It's a done deal now. There's no way they can go 366 days and not pass this thing."

– By David Tanner, staff writer