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Wednesday, September 6, 2006

hot fuel scandal

i promised i’d address this at some level, so… here we go:

recently, the kansas city star came out with a story about hot fuel. their conclusion:

An investigation by The Kansas City Star has found that at recent prices U.S. consumers are spending about $2.3 billion more for gasoline and diesel this year than they otherwise would if fuel pumps were adjusted to account for expansion of hot fuel.

this story gets some traction, and there are others, like this one from the arizona republic, and follow-ups from the kansas city star here.

of course, this is just physics. things generally expand when they get hot. you’re buying a gallon of gas when you buy a gallon of gas, and not some specific number of joules (like 132,000,000). and all that makes perfect sense back when gasoline turned into the mainstream transportation fuel.

so it’s an engineering legacy that we have to live with, but not indefinitely.

today, it’s the subject of government investigations (see here and here for starters).

so, while everyone is chewing on this multi-billion-dollar heat surcharge collected by the oil industry, i have a couple other concerns to throw into the fire. this little tidbit of government-corporate partnership that brought you a 60-degree standard temperature for gasoline in the united states was established “nearly a century ago” in an era when government was… well, different. more transparent? less? it’s hard for me to judge. but what i do know is that today, the oil industry is not just agreeing to standard temperatures for measuring gallons of gasoline. they’re setting energy policy, behind closed doors, with an administration that won’t even disclose what subjects are being discussed. those investigations have been completely stonewalled.

so, missouri and california may lead us to a path of temperature-compensating fuel pumps, but will we figure out what other little deals and policies have been established in this business? did someone cut a deal to measure hydrogen by volume as opposed to by joule?

posted by roj at 3:48 am