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December 29, 2006

'Suit Challenges Warm Gasoline'



That's what I thought when I read that headline above a December 15, 2006 New York Times article.

Long story short: Gasoline expands when the temperature exceeds 60°F, so a gallon in summer actually provides less energy than one purchased in winter. Though the difference amounts to pennies a gallon, the gallons add up: Public Citizen estimates oil companies end up overcharging customers more than $2 billion a year as a result of their failure to adjust gasoline volumes delivered according to temperature.

Who knew?

Here's the story.

    Suit Challenges Warm Gasoline

    Seventeen oil companies and gasoline service stations have been named in a class-action suit accusing them of overcharging customers at the pump by failing to compensate for changes in gasoline volumes when temperatures rise.

    The consumer fraud suit contends that oil companies fail to take into account the fact that gasoline expands when the temperature exceeds 60 degrees. Therefore, the suit says, consumers get less energy for each gallon they buy.

    The suit was filed Wednesday by a small number of truck drivers and motorists in California.

    According to Public Citizen, a consumer association, the oil industry has resisted installing equipment that can adjust gasoline volumes delivered at the pump when temperatures change. While the difference amounts to pennies per gallon, Public Citizen estimates that oil companies end up overcharging consumers by more than $2 billion each year.

    The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry's largest trade group, has said that changing the existing metering systems would be too costly while benefits to consumers would be small.

    The companies named in the suit include Chevron, 7-Eleven, Valero and Wal-Mart Stores.


The Heritage Foundation blog raised an interesting counterpoint to the lawsuit's grounds.

December 29, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Well, it's pretty common knowledge that in the summer when it's exceedingly hot, you'd better buy your gas in the morning before the ground temp climbs, otherwise you will not get as much. Yes it expands. But I think it's also common knowledge, if you're waiting for the oil companies to do the right thing, you'd better bring your lunch.

Posted by: David | Dec 29, 2006 10:50:25 PM

I'd have thought the oil companies only need to retort that the summer price is the correct one and that out of the goodness of their hearts they are giving everyone a bonus for the rest of the year.

Posted by: Skipweasel | Dec 29, 2006 6:40:31 PM

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