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‘Hot fuel’ – The Kansas City Star’s next Pulitzer?

By Sandi Soendker
managing editor

It is clearly not a good time for big oil companies to play fast and loose with the cost of a gallon of fuel.

On Aug. 27, “Hot fuel for you, cold cash for big oil” was published by The Kansas City Star as a special Star Watchdog Report. Exposing issues already familiar to truckers, the article prompted a roar of pain and surprise from mainstream readers.

The copy leapt off the page – “when gasoline gets hot, it expands ... and it’s costing American consumers about $2.3 billion a year.” It didn’t take consumers long to realize that if they bought “hot” fuel, they were getting ripped off.

At press time, 12 other newspapers had picked up that story, written by The Star staff writer Steve Everly.

On Aug. 28, part two –“Technology, new rules a hot-fuel fix” hit the streets. The California Attorney General’s Office suddenly initiated a probe – which could lead to a full-blown investigation – into gas stations and truck stops selling “hot” fuel to consumers without making adjustments for changes in fuel volume.

In Missouri, Claire McCaskill, the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat, was clearly disturbed over the report. According to The Star, she said someone needs to step forward and take up the cause and that “now we find out that we’re not even getting a gallon when we pay for a gallon.”

On Aug. 30, the Charlotte Observer reported a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Attorney General’s Office said based on the concerns pointed out by the series in The Star, they were reviewing the articles and taking a look at the issues they bring up.

Everly and others involved in research for the series reported they “reviewed hundreds of industry and government documents going back nearly a century, traveled across the country, and interviewed scores of government, industry and consumer sources to assess the impact of temperature on fuel.”

They collected piles of data on fuel temperatures. OOIDA was a major source of information.

The outrage being felt by mainstream readers is nothing new to truckers. More than two years ago, Land Line Magazine reported on the rip-off. Land Line’s reports were based on the exhaustive research of OOIDA’s John Siebert, who has worked on the hot-fuel problem since July 2002. Siebert’s investigation included sampling of fuel at more than 30 different retailers via OOIDA’s truck, the “Spirit of the American Trucker.”

Siebert, who is a project manager for the OOIDA Foundation, believes The Star and Steve Everly both deserve to carve a “Pulitzer Notch” in their collective gun belts.

We second that notion.