Hearne: Chalk One Up for the Bad Guys in ‘Hot Fuel’ Debate

Did I hear somebody cry, uncle?

Probably not, but one has to wonder. Because after Star reporter Steve Everly‘s more than 30 articles banging the big bad oil industry for “deceptive” practices by selling “hot fuel” and ripping off consumers to the tune of billions of dollars, a jury of 10 of those consumers ruled that – wait for it – the gas selling swindlers were not guilty.

By the way, the jury verdict was unanimous.


“A federal court jury has ruled that selling gasoline that has not been adjusted for its temperature does not violate the Kansas Consumer Protection Act,” the Associated Press reports. “The jury returned the verdict Monday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan. At issue is whether customers are shortchanged when buying gasoline that is over 60 degrees. The volume of gasoline expands and consumers argue they are getting less than a gallon of fuel for a full gallon price.”

Pardon me but after six years of hand wringing and jockeying for a Pulitzer, even the front page graphic in today’s Star proved somewhat telling. In it, the newspaper estimates that a car getting 20 miles-per-gallon would travel 392 miles if its gas was “hot” but would travel an additional eight miles if  it were cool.

Stop the proverbial presses.

Yet while Everly and the Starclaim hot gas is a consumer ripoff, “the jury ruled that selling gasoline over the 60-degree industry standard does not constitute deceptive practices under the consumer protection law.”

Everly and the Star‘s Achilles heel: “The fuel industry maintains that the claims of harm are overstated and that any impact evens out because fuel is also sold at below 60 degrees,” the AP reports. “The industry argues that installing pumps that mitigate temperature changes isn’t worth the cost.”

The ruling comes as a blow to the newspaper and parent company McClatchy which has been banging the hot fuel ripoff drum nearly nonstop.

Especially since ” the case, in the U.S. District Court of Kansas, was the first to come to a jury verdict in years of legal proceedings over the practice,” writes conveniencestores.com. “The jurors found, 10-0, that selling fuel over the industry’s 60-degree standard was not ‘deceptive’ under the state law.”

What’s more, the case was “consolidated” from 26 cases that had been filed across the country

And while the verdict was front-and-center, top-of-the-fold news in Kansas City, scarcely a smattering of small media and trade blogs even touched on it.

Which may help explain this tongue-in-cheek online report that ran on gonemild.com a few years back under the headline, “Kansas City Star ROBBED by Pulitzer Committee!!”

“Incredibly, the Pulitzer Committee somehow overlooked the 120-article series on ‘hot fuel’ penned by the obsessive Steve Everly,” it begins. “How could they fail to recognize the constant, tedious reportage plumbing the shocking, shocking fact that liquids tend to expand when they are warmed?

“They must not have an award for pointless, breathless exposes . . .

“Even so, they should have given (the Star) an award for the weekend teaser they used back in October – ‘The hot fuel debate rages on nationwide . . .’ A Pulitzer for comedy writing?”

Star business editor Greg Hack batted for Everly (who couldn’t be reached) for today’s Hot Fuel story. Everly is reportedly enjoying an unpaid vacation (furlough) until “at least October 1st,” according to his voice mail message. Star staffers are not allowed to check voice mails or emails while furloughing.




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6 Responses to Hearne: Chalk One Up for the Bad Guys in ‘Hot Fuel’ Debate

  1. the dude says:

    And when gas is cold you get more, here in temperate climates it kinda evens out.
    You only get screwed when you live someplace that is constantly hot. Much ado ’bout nuthin’ here.

  2. Orphan of the Road says:

    The temperature four-feet below surface is on average 50-degrees.

    The question the jurors had to face was how much expansion can occur in the few seconds it takes for the gas to reach the meter.

    I guess this is one Star business writer who won’t be going off to a corporate gig anytime soon, eh?

  3. Super Dave says:

    For being such idiots the Star should have to pay all costs this stupid lawsuit brought forth.

  4. Rick Nichols says:

    Why just 10 on the jury (although a jury of 12 might well have reached the same decision)? Hey, love the LOL, OMG and WTF labels for unleaded, plus and premium gas, respectively. No, a range gain of only eight miles for “cool” gas as opposed to “hot” gas is hardly worth going to court over. The sad thing here is that we’re still talking about cars getting roughly 20 mpg when our cars should be consistently making at least 50 mpg by now. Even if the verdict had gone the other way, I can’t see the Pulitzer committee giving The Star a prize for a series on this subject.

  5. admin says:

    HC: I agree with you on the mileage the Star chose to highlight in its graphic. Thirty MPGs would at least be in the ballpark. I’m in the mid 40s with my Prius and low-to-mid 30s in the Abarth. Even the new Cadillac XTS sedan – hardly a model citizen mileage wise – gets 28 MPGs highway

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