Kucinich calls second congressional hearing on ‘hot fuel’

| 7/19/2007

The second time around, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, hopes to get answers from two oil companies about “hot fuel.”

Kucinich, chairman of the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has called a second hearing on the topic, specifically to ask why fuel retailers and oil companies have embraced an automated method of temperature compensation at retail pumps in Canada but not in the U.S.

The subcommittee hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, July 25, on Capitol Hill. To watch the hearing online on meeting day or to search for an archived version afterward, click here.

Kucinich previously invited executives from ExxonMobil Corp. and Shell Oil Co. to the subcommittee’s first “hot fuel” hearing June 8, but they were no-shows. OOIDA Foundation Project Leader John Siebert was among those who did testify at that hearing.

Siebert spoke in favor of automatic temperature compensation at retail fuel pumps to neutralize the “hot fuel” problem. Hot fuel refers to diesel and gasoline sold warmer than the century-old standard of 60 degrees. Temperature is compensated for at all points of the refining and wholesale fuel process, but not at the retail pump. The warmer the fuel, the more it expands and the less Btu – or bang for your buck – it has.

Officials from both Shell and ExxonMobil are listed on the agenda for the July 25 hearing. Scheduled to testify are Ben Soraci, U.S. retail sales director for ExxonMobil Fuels Marketing Company, and Hugh Cooley, vice president and general manager of Shell Oil Co.’s National Wholesale and Joint Ventures.

Kucinich has said both companies use a double standard when doing business in the U.S. and Canada.

“In Canada, the oil industry moved quickly to adopt automated temperature compensation at the retail pump,” Kucinich stated in a press release. “But in the U.S., where temperatures are often considerably warmer than the industry standard of 60 degrees, the oil industry has resisted equipping gas stations with temperature compensating technology.”

Pump manufacturers developed temperature-compensation equipment in 1984 to be used in Canada, and retailers were quick to adopt it because cooler fuel temperatures were eating into fuel company profits.

Meanwhile, refineries and wholesalers adjust for temperature fluctuations when buying and selling fuel.

Research by the National Institute for Standards and Technology shows that retail gasoline or diesel sold above 60 degrees contains less energy by volume than a cooler gallon does. The national average temperature of fuel in the United States is over 64 degrees, with some warmer states averaging well into the 70s and 80s.

Consumers buying hot fuel will lose $1.5 billion this summer alone, Kucinich’s staff reported in a document released at the June 8 hearing.

Since that first hearing, the National Conference on Weights and Measures met to discuss, among other things, automatic temperature compensation. The conference is a 2,400-member organization that develops policies for fairness in the marketplace.

At its July 8-12 meeting, the voting body failed to reach a large enough majority vote to provide states with model guidelines in case the states choose to require automatic temperature-compensation equipment on retail pumps.

– By David Tanner, staff writer