Hot summer days. The time when gasoline prices peak, most years. And never has that peak been higher than right now, in the summer of 2007.
Ever hear the somewhat geeky advice that you can save on gas when it’s hot by filling up early in the day from those cool, underground tanks at the gas station, and let the fuel expand in your car’s tank as the outdoor temperature rises? Sounds like a great tip- if only it made sense.
The real experts say the volume of fuel in your car’s tank certainly does increase with rising temperatures, but the energy in that tankful does not. And now, politicians and other oil company critics are trying to turn the temperature of gasoline when it’s sold to you into a serious issue. They claim it’s one more reason you’re paying too much at the pump.
The hot fuel effect is a matter of simple physics.
Almost a century ago, the industry and regulators agreed to define a gallon of gasoline as 231 cubic inches at 60 degrees. But as the temperature rises and gasoline expands, it takes more than a gallon of gas to produce the same amount of energy as a regular gallon in colder weather.
As sold nationally, gasoline is an average of about five degrees warmer than the federal standard, according to a study analyzed by Dick Suiter of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Conclusion: you’re paying at least a few cents extra per gallon because you’re getting a full tank of liquid, but not a full tank of energy.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who struggles to be nominated for president every four years, says this is a hot issue and something needs to be done about it. He and other lawmakers want the oil companies to adjust prices based on air temperature. Maybe even install all-new pumps that would to that automatically.
Among their arguments against that, of course, is that it would drive up the price of gasoline. We are anywhere but in the driver’s seat, when it comes to the cost of getting around on four wheels.