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CONGRESS STUDIES COLOR CODING OF GASOLINE TO END $600 MILLION A YEAR FRAUD AT GAS PUMPS

 CONGRESS STUDIES COLOR CODING OF GASOLINE
 TO END $600 MILLION A YEAR FRAUD AT GAS PUMPS
 CHICAGO, April 16 /PRNewswire/ -- When you "fill it up" at your local gas station, are you getting what you're paying for?
 The answer is a firm "maybe," say officials at Morton International, which has developed a dye coding system for gasoline.
 Officials in states around the country are finding that an increasing number of motorists are getting ripped off at the pump. They may be paying for premium, but they're often getting regular, federal studies show.
 According to results of a two-year study done by the federal government's General Accounting Office, the sale of mis-labeled gasoline has become almost routine. The GAO found that, in some states, as much as 50 percent of the gasoline sold has a lower octane level than the one specified at the pump and at the cash register.
 In many localities, motorists are paying premium prices for regular gasoline. With the price differential of up to 20 cents per gallon between high octane and regular gasoline, the result is consumer overcharges -- and fraud -- that is costing drivers and taxpayers $600 million a year.
 Consumer concern has prompted Congress to commission a study this year to research a possible solution to the problem. And that solution is color coding gasoline.
 Solution: Color Coded Gas
 Coloring gas for identification purposes isn't new, says David Booth, Morton's vice president of Dyes and Organic Specialities. Color coded gasoline has been used in the United States since World War II by the military and the aviation industry. Canada and 37 other nations on six continents use color coding in their consumer gasoline markets.
 Twenty states have attempted to deal with the issue of mislabeled octane with testing programs of their own. In the absence of a uniform color coding system, however, time-consuming, expensive laboratory tests are required to determine true octane levels. Booth says, testing one sample of gasoline typically costs $100 in the laboratory, plus the manpower needed to physically bring the sample from the pump into the lab.
 A national color coding program can, however, save multi-million dollar costs of establishing and operating laboratory testing facilities. In this era of fiscal crisis and looming state deficits, few if any states would consider that kind of investment.
 Not surprisingly, the 30 states with no provision at all for octane level enforcement have the highest rates of octane fraud. In four sample states covered by the GAO study (Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Tennessee), mislabeled gasoline samples ranged from 22 percent to 53 percent.
 A bill before Congress called the "Octane Display and Disclosure Act" (HR-5520) gives states more power to stop octane fraud, and it is this bill that commissioned the feasibility study on methods of dying gasoline in order to identify gas of different octane levels by color.
 Concerned motorists, consumer advocates, members of Congress and other proponents of color coding gasoline say it is a simple and inexpensive system that allows law enforcement officials to make their own inspections of octane levels right at the gas pump.
 Red, White or Blue Gas
 The color coding plan most commonly discussed for the U.S. market would dye low-octane or regular fuel blue, mid-grade fuel would be dyed red, and high-octane or premium fuel would remain colorless or undyed. The necessary coloring could be added at the refinery, Booth says.
 Perhaps the most appealing aspect of the color coding system is the cost.
 "We're talking about an additional cost of 2/100ths to 4/100ths of a cent for each gallon of gas," explains Booth. "That's not going to push anybody off the road."
 But it will ensure decreased cheating at the pump, increased protection for consumers from fraud and savings for the government from the high costs connected with compliance.
 -0- 4/16/92
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: David Booth available for interviews, color photos available./
 /CONTACT: Michael O'Connell of Geltzer, 212-575-1976, for Morton International/
 (MII) CO: Morton International, Inc. ST: Illinois IN: CHM SU: PDT


PS -- NYFNS3 -- 9044 04/16/92 07:32 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Apr 16, 1992
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