tesoro in hot water over hot fuel

Consumer group attacks chain over consumer warning attempts.

Tesoro is putting warning decals on its gas station pumps, including dozens of Shell stations, warning that consumers may not get all the energy they paid for in a gallon of gasoline, according to industry reports today. However, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) is arguing that instead of a warning on the pumps, Tesoro should sell gasoline that is compensated for high temperatures that cause the fuel to have less energy per gallon.

“The warning labels are acknowledgement of this long-time oil industry rip-off of motorists just as they begin their holiday trips,” said Judy Dugan, research director of OilWatchdog.org and FTCR. “More consumers will understand what’s causing their summer drop off in gas mileage and be furious. Tesoro would be better off if it went ahead and sold its gasoline fairly.”

In a press statement, the FTCR suggested that lawmakers should move quickly to require that gasoline sales compensate for higher temperatures at the pump.

The warning decals are apparently a response to lawsuits charging motorists are deceived by “hot fuel” sales.

Gasoline is sold and taxed at a temperature of 60 degrees. The FTCR claims that in California and dozens of other states, gasoline is much hotter when sold, so it expands and provides a few cents’ less energy per gallon.

The 3-inch by 3-inch decals say “This pump dispenses motor fuel by volume measured in standard gallons (231 cubic inches), as certified by the California Division of Measurement Standards, without adjustment for possible variations due to temperature or other factors which may affect the energy content of each standard gallon dispensed.”

FTCR said the labels, despite their vagueness, will spur motorists’ awareness and demands for fair pricing. However, Oil Express, a trade industry newsletter operated by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) reported no other chains have yet indicated they’ll follow suit.

“Consumers will soon decode the warning label’s gobbledygook and demand to know why this is allowed when they’re already paying more than $3 a gallon,” said Dugan. “Tesoro is obviously hoping to escape charges of deception, but the industry as a whole can’t escape the injustice of its pricing practices.”

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