Motor Fuels: Stakeholder Views on Compensating for the Effects of Gasoline Temperature on Volume at the Pump Page: 4 of 26
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Accountability * Integrity * Reliability
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548
September 25, 2008
The Honorable Bart Gordon
Committee on Science and Technology
House of Representatives
Dear Mr. Chairman:
Consumers and businesses alike are concerned about the steep rise in fuel
prices in recent years. Because the volume of hydrocarbon fuels, such as
gasoline and diesel,' varies in response to changes in temperature, some
are concerned about the potential impact of temperature-related changes
in volume on the amount they pay. More specifically, the volume of
gasoline expands or contracts by 1 percent for each 15 degree increase or
decrease in temperature, while the energy content of gasoline remains the
same. For example, 10 gallons of gasoline at 60 degrees Fahrenheit (F)
expands to 10.2 gallons of gasoline at 90 degrees F but maintains the same
total energy content.2 As a result, the average energy content per gallon of
the 90 degree fuel will be less than that of the 60 degree fuel. In the United
States, wholesale fuel transactions are routinely adjusted for temperature-
related changes in volume. However, at the retail level, gasoline and diesel
are sold by volume-specifically, 231 cubic inches per gallon-without
regard to temperature, leading some to believe that the retail price of a
gallon of fuel may not reflect its true value. Advances in measurement
technology have allowed the development of devices that can
automatically compensate for the effects of temperature on volume when
dispensing fuel at retail gas pumps.3 While some argue that extending
temperature compensation to the retail level could provide greater
transparency in fuel prices, others contend that the cost to upgrade
existing equipment could be substantial and impose economic hardship on
The National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM), a consensus-
building organization composed of state and local regulatory officials and
'This report focuses on gasoline and diesel rather than other petroleum products, such as
heating oil or jet fuel.
2This example assumes the use of the same blend of gasoline. Energy content can also vary
depending on the blend of gasoline.
3Throughout this report, we refer to the devices that dispense fuel as pumps. Individual
pumps may dispense multiple types of fuel, such as regular and high-octane gasoline.
GAO-08-1114 Motor Fuels
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Motor Fuels: Stakeholder Views on Compensating for the Effects of Gasoline Temperature on Volume at the Pump, report, September 25, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc296959/m1/4/: accessed January 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.