Monday, July 7, 2008

Star Tribune: $4 gas has drivers eyeing pump's accuracy

I just don't get people sometimes. While I understand how the insane gas prices have made us all a little testy, isn't time we blamed the right people? Rather than blame the oil companies, who make their prices based on supply and demand (Economics 101), it's time to cast aspersions at the real source of the problem: the environmentalists and their Democratic handlers.

According to the Star Tribune, drivers "are calling Minnesota's Department of Commerce to report suspicions that they're not getting as much gas as they're paying for."

You're right, fellow Minnesota drivers. We're not getting as much as we paid for. Thanks to the environmental movement and lie known as global warming, we're forbidden to cultivate our own resources, whether it's oil in Alaska, our vast coal supply, or nuclear power. Rather, the Left would rather us practice conservation, depriving us of the happiness of road trips, boating on the lake, or RV trips.

For those of you planning on voting Democrat in this election, does your beloved party represent you or groups like the environmental lobby, which doesn't give a rat's ass about working class folk like you or me?

Here's the complete story:

$4 gas has drivers eyeing pump's accuracy

July 7, 2008

ST. CLOUD, Minn. - There's nothing like $4 gas to make drivers pay attention to the numbers on the pump. And more of those eagle-eyed drivers are calling Minnesota's Department of Commerce to report suspicions that they're not getting as much gas as they're paying for.

A year ago, drivers called investigator Jeff Anderson maybe once a month to report suspicions that a pump was faulty. Now he gets about two to three calls a week.

The state said most pumps are within its standards for accuracy. The St. Cloud Times found that during the year leading up to April 1, 2008, about 6 percent of gas pumps failed inspections in Stearns, Benton, and Sherburne counties. That works out to about a dozen pumps each month during that year.

"What we want is a gallon (of gas) to be a gallon everywhere," said Julie Quinn, assistant director of the Weights and Measures division of the state's commerce department.

Pumps are tested with a margin of error of 6 cubic inches, or about a quarter of a can of soda. For a regular pump at $4 a gallon, that's a margin of error of about 10 cents. New pumps or those that have been worked on in the past 30 days are allowed half of that margin of error.

Anderson tests the pumps by filling two five-gallon stainless steel containers to measure the gasoline. (He pours the gas back into the station's underground tank afterward.)

Pumps fail inspections for many reasons. Sometimes pumps give too much gas. Sometimes hoses leak. Sometimes the meter is broken.

The problems usually occur because of normal wear and tear, Quinn said. She said she's surprised more pumps don't fail, considering all the wear and tear they endure.

Anderson slaps problem pumps with a yellow tag or a red tag, depending on the severity. The red tag means it can't be used until it's fixed. The yellow tag means it can be used but must be fixed within 30 days. The gas station must pay for the repair. The owner does not receive a reprimand, no matter how many yellow or red tags the station gets.

"The station owner generally doesn't have the tools to know whether he is shorting people or giving gas away," Quinn said.

Anderson inspects about 30 to 40 pumps a day, or two to three gas stations. Most of the time, drivers get what they pay for, he said.

"Ninety-nine percent of times, the pump is right," he said. "I wish I'd find something that's off."

Sometimes a consumer's complaint is valid. A gas station in Waite Park, for example, last year had an inspection that was off by 130 cubic inches — meaning customers got about 4 1/2 gallons of gas for every 5 gallons they paid for. An inspector flagged the pump for repair. The station did not respond to a St. Cloud Times request for an interview.

That was the only pump off by that much in the three-county area, according to the data.

Sometimes the pumps give some gas away for free. At Rooney's Texaco in Belgrade, one test showed a pump was giving away as much as a quarter-gallon of gas for every five gallons pumped. It was immediately flagged and fixed.

It was normal wear and tear, said owner Russ Rooney.

"Once a year they come on in and test our pumps for accuracy," he said. "There's times it floats the other way. You just shrug and say, 'Shucks.'"

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