Congress calls big oil to the Hill for ‘hot fuel’ hearing

| 5/31/2007

OOIDA Foundation Project Leader John Siebert has been called to testify on Capitol Hill on the issue of “hot fuel.”

Siebert said the June 8 hearing, called by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is a significant step toward consumers getting what they pay for at the pump, regardless of the temperature of the fuel.

“Hot fuel” refers to retail gasoline or diesel sold at temperatures higher than 60 degrees – a standard that defines the amount of fuel energy consumers pay for when they purchase a 231-cubic-inch gallon.

Elementary physics demonstrates that liquids expand or contract when temperatures fluctuate, and fuel is no exception.

Some consumer groups – including many owner-operators and other plaintiffs who have filed federal lawsuits against fuel retailers and oil companies – believe the retailers and oil companies take advantage of consumers by selling them less energy than they pay for when the fuel is sold warmer than 60 degrees.

Big oil companies have also been called to the hearing.

Land Line has obtained a copy of a letter from the subcommittee addressed to John D. Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Company’s U.S. division in Houston.

“The hearing will consider: how the petroleum industry in the United States addresses hot fuels, including both wholesale and retail transactions; steps underway at the government level, including matters before the upcoming meeting of the National Conference of Weights and Measures; how government and industry in Canada have addressed it, and what steps, if any, the Federal Government should take,” the letter states.

Siebert has been asking those questions for a few years now. But it was not until late last summer when the Kansas City Star newspaper did a special series that consumers across the country started joining the chorus.

In addition to the June 8 subcommittee hearing, Siebert is scheduled to testify about hot fuel July 8-12 at the National Conference on Weights and Measures in Salt Lake City.

With the help of owner-operators, Siebert contributed to the research that led to the media and lawmakers taking a serious look at hot fuel.

Siebert says the whole issue could be put to rest if the oil companies and retailers would install temperature-compensation equipment on all fuel pumps to adjust for fluctuations.

“The technology exists, and the impact is real and it needs to be addressed,” Siebert told Land Line.

He said temperature compensation at the retail pumps is the only way to ensure that consumers get what they pay for.

Temperature compensation at the pump has been the norm in Canada since the 1990s, when retailers determined they were losing money because fuel temperatures averaged less than 60 degrees.

“It’s obvious that (legislators) are looking at the success of the program in Canada, and how that success might be applied to the United States,” Siebert said. “It’s technology that’s been proven over time, and it’s time its use happens in the United States.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer