Big Oil’s Dirty Little Secret: Why Your Gasoline Isn’t Going As Far As It Should

It’s no secret that consumers continue to get ripped off by the major oil companies. But a new investigative report from NBC news reveals another way the richest corporations on Earth have exploited consumers for their own profitable gain.

The big oil companies – and the industry groups that represent them – have worked tirelessly to conceal what, until now, has been a virtually unknown truth: The hotter gasoline is when it is pumped, the lower the vehicle’s mileage per gallon will be.

According to the NBC report, Big Oil collected an extra $1.5 billion from U.S. consumers as a result of failing to address the issue. Not to mention, gasoline prices tend to increase in the hotter summer months, intensifying the cost burden on consumers.

The technology to prevent the problem already exists: “smart” pumps that adjust the price of gasoline according to the temperature. In fact, these smart pumps are already deployed in 90% of gas stations in Canada.

If Canada – which has one of the coldest climates of any nation – recognizes the need to install the new pumps, then why hasn’t it been done in the U.S., where summers in Southern states are downright sweltering? 

Because oil-industry lobbyists have fought long and hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. Several lawsuits against the oil companies are ongoing in some of the warmer states, but the cases are still pending.

Although the NBC report highlights the issue from a consumer-protection standpoint, it fails to mention the wider environmental impact of their negligence. Fewer miles per gallon, of course, mean not only more money, but more harmful emissions.

Installing smart pumps might be a higher-cost option over the short term, but it would pay dividends over the long term not only to consumers, but to the environment.

But, of course, Big Oil isn’t too concerned about that. 

The good news is that there is something you can do. Fill up your tank in the morning, at night, or on colder days to avoid handing out extra dollars to fund dirty oil. Or, better yet, forget the gas altogether, and bike, walk, or – if you have the cash to spend – buy an electric vehicle.



New Vehicle Labels Trick Stingy Consumers Into Going Green

(Image credit: /EPA/DOE)

As consumers continue to rank economic concerns over environmental issues, the federal government has crafted an ingenious method of tricking those worried about their bottom lines into going green. 

Beginning in 2013, all vehicles – including gasoline-powered, plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric – will be labeled not only with their usual miles per gallon, but also how much consumers will save in fuel costs over five years compared to if they were to purchase an “average” vehicle, thanks to a new initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The label also states the estimated average annual cost of fuel for the vehicle, and rates the car both on greenhouse gas emissions and smog.

The emissions information will surely interest the more environmentally minded, but for those who tend to look the other way when it comes to their carbon footprint, the costs of owning a gas-guzzler could certainly be an eye-opener. As gas prices soared close to the $5-per-gallon mark in 2009, there was a marked uptick in sales of energy-efficient vehicles.

As shameful as it may be, money has proven to be the most effective motivator of consumer behavior, and I commend the government agencies for not only recognizing this truth, but using it to benefit the planet.

Of course, the system is not without its flaws. The annual costs of fueling the vehicles will invariably change along with fluctuating gas prices, thus rendering the new labels inaccurate. Moreover, each car model’s savings compared to the “average vehicle” will depend on that “average” shifting over time. For instance, a car that gets 50 miles to the gallon is now on the leading edge but may soon become “average,” affecting these calculations.

Nonetheless, the agencies have pulled off a brilliant marketing campaign – PR for emissions reduction, if you will. No, we will never convince everyone to be environmentally friendly, but saving money is something we can all agree on. Just don’t tell the climate skeptics they’re helping the Earth, too.