My brother pointed me to this article explaining that gasoline pumps don't compensate for temperature (or, presumably, pressure), leading to considerable losses by consumers.
Think gas is expensive? It's even more expensive on hot summer days. Gasoline expands as temperatures rise. That means motorists get less energy from a gallon of so-called "hot fuel" than from a cold one.
When Brent Donaldson, a restaurant owner in Kansas City, Mo., discovered that fact earlier this year, he joined hundreds of consumers in more than a dozen states who are suing oil companies and gas retailers, alleging that they have been overcharged by billions of dollars.
"The consumer is repeatedly being ripped off and not given a fair deal," Donaldson says. He says he spends $60 a week filling his Acura.
The lawsuits allege that higher temperatures of gasoline cost consumers between 3 and 9 cents a gallon extra at the pump.
Pumps are apparently calibrated to 60 degrees, so if you get gas when it's hotter than that you're paying too much. Of course, if you get gas when it's colder than 60 you're reaping a benefit... but gas companies in cold climates already compensate when the error would be to their disadvantage!
However, the consumers' attorneys say that in Canada â€” where gas temperatures are generally colder, and the advantage shifts to the consumer â€” temperature-adjustment equipment already has been installed at the gas pump.
George Zelk, a Chicago attorney representing truck drivers in several states, says the oil industry wants it both ways.
"The industry has pushed for this temperature adjustment in Canada, where they lose money, where it's colder than 60 degrees, and opposed it in the United States where it's warmer than 60 degrees," Zelk says.
I had always assumed that gas pumps compensated for temperature and pressure... otherwise, high-altitude cities have been getting systematically screwed for decades!