New Hampshire bill addresses ‘hot fuel’

| 1/24/2008

A New Hampshire lawmaker is pursuing a change to state law to help ensure consumers get what they pay for at the fuel pump.

Sponsored by Sen. Peter Burling, D-Cornish, the bill addresses the problem of “hot fuel” that has gained notoriety throughout the nation in recent months.

Federal government standards put 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 fuel expands and the amount of energy it produces drops, meaning fewer miles to the gallon.

The bill – SB382 – would require a gallon of diesel or gasoline to have its volume adjusted for changes in temperature. The state’s Department of Environmental Services would define the size of a temperature-adjusted gallon of fuel.

The department would take into account the historical average temperature in the state; the amount by which a gallon of fuel at 60 degrees expands or contracts when heated or cooled to the historical average temperature; and use the amount of expansion or contraction to determine the size of a temperature-adjusted gallon.

By January 2011, the department would be 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 consumers truly get their moneys worth at the pump.

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

The New Hampshire bill is in the Senate Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor