Monday, November 12, 2007

Losing At The Pump

WTHR's Bob Segall turns in another blockbuster investigative report. This time it's about how gas station operators are ripping off consumers at the pump to the tune of millions each year. Did you know gasoline expands if its temperature rises above 60 degrees? Segall's report uncovers gas temperatures at Indiana gas pump well over 70 degrees even as temperatures have dipped outside recently. That means you really aren't getting a gallon of gas when the pump registers a gallon pumped. In fact, you're losing about a $1 every time you fill up your car with a tank of gas. The petroleum companies carefully control the temperature of its gas throughout the distribution chain according to Segall until the point it leaves the underground tank and enters into your car.

The Indiana Petroleum Marketers Association insists it all evens out. If petroleum operators installed temperature control devices on all gas pumps, you would have to pay more for your gas according to Scott Imus. But Segall notes that in Canada, where the temperatures on average are much cooler than Indiana, all gas stations install the temperature control devices. If they didn't Segall notes, the retailers would lose money because the colder temperatures would allow you to pump more gas than the pump is actually registering. Even in colder weather, the petroleum companies carefully control the temperature to avoid loss earlier in the distribution chain.

Yet another great report by Segall's 13 Investigates. It must be sweeps week.


Anonymous said...

I thought it was an interesting report and secondarily that it raised an interesting philosophy of government question as I watched the state inspector and all his equipment testing the temps...

Libertarians, (in philosophy, not just official party) I'm sure, would suggest the free market controls consumer interests... thus the bureaucracy of a State Dept. of Weights and Measures is unnecessary govt. waste and spending.

I had to wonder that if we really want to do something about this genuine issue to the public/consumers (and it made me want to) how much would that cost? I imagine the current department is a lean minimally funded group (though maybe that's just my imagination). I can't imagine what it would cost to operate an organization/agency with adequate means to meaningfully inspect all the gas stations at regular intervals... not to mention the regulatory/enforcement arm (administrative hearings, no doubt bogged down with petro indutry/station owners' attorneys fighting administrative actions in hearings and in court, etc.)

Is all that cost to the taxpayers worth it, even if it's right and we all want it "taken care of"

I mean, I don't want to inspect my own airplanes. I want an FAA. And so on... nursing homes, coal mines...

Interesting to ponder.

Anonymous said...

Bush Family owns an oil company.
They like the high prices.

Sir Hailstone said...

I read somewhere it's always better to fuel up in the morning right at sunrise. The fuel in the tank has cooled and it will expand in the fuel tank on your car in the heat of the day.

People thought I was kooky to suggest you're better off fueling in the morning.

People still think I'm kooky but not for that reason :P

Lance said...

Gas expands as the temperature goes up - there's no magic temperature that makes it start expanding (like 60°F). Most things, in fact, have a positive coefficient of thermal expansion (steel, water, wood, air). And no, it isn't nuts to fuel up in the morning. It makes sense. The difference in density of gasoline between 40°F and 85°F is about 2%, meaning you're getting about 2% less gas (higher temperature means lower density, which means less mass of gas per gallon pumped). This probably isn't noticable by consumers - but it sure is by the retailers. The gas pumps measure flow, not weight, so there's really nothing that you can do about it(unitl retailers are required to have temperature compensators on the pumps) except buy gas when you know it will be cooler by a few degrees - like early in the morning. It's not wonky, it's science!

Advance Indiana said...

"Bush Family owns an oil company.
They like the high prices."

George H.W. Bush used to own an oil company called Zappata Oil down in Texas. He started it up supposedly with money from his daddy's family and friends soon after he graduated college back in the 1960s. I've always thought it was one of those CIA front companies, particularly given the fact he later became CIA Director. Little known fact: J. Edgar Hoover discussed the Kennedy assassination with a guy named George Bush the day after the assassination. Bush now claims it was some other guy in the CIA with the same name. Another twist in the grassy knoll theory?

Bart Lies said...

A long time ago, movie theaters made a point of advertising they were 'air conditioned' to draw in customers.

Maybe the gas stations will start doing it, too. It should amount to no more than an extra dollar per tankful to install and operate underground coolers.

Or maybe they could just put upanother electric sign that flashes the time and tank temperature below the price perg allon.