Wisconsin Looking Into Possible Octane Fraud

Commerce secretary orders new inspection rules

MADISON, Wis. -- The Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce has ordered nearly a dozen changes to the agency's gasoline sampling and inspection practices Tuesday to better fight fraud at the pump, reported the Associated Press.

Among the moves are requiring inspectors to check all premium and regular grades during retail inspections and launching a gasoline sampling blitz later this year.

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation claimed motorists pumping premium fuel into their vehicles do not always get the high-octane fuel they buy. [image-nocss] Instead, some station owners and delivery drivers allegedly cheat them by diluting premium with lower-grade gasoline, the paper reported.

Until now, inspectors have tested retail premium tanks at their discretion. They also relied on matching retailers' inventory records with delivery records.

Commerce Secretary Mary Burke also ordered the agency to buy more fuel analyzers for state labs and to set aside more money to send suspicious samples to private laboratories for testing on special engines. The state spends about $250 per sample it sends to labs with the engines, agency executive assistant Aaron Olver said. Burke wants to enter into an agreement with a lab that will test more samples for a lower price, he said.

More tested samples will help build a state database of known samples, helpful in analyzing suspicious samples.

Burke also asked the agency to create a new monthly report on inspection procedures for her personal review.

A staff memo to Burke said it is hard to tell how widespread premium fraud might be in Wisconsin. According to AP, in addition to deliberate cheating, other possibilities include that fuel wholesalers or delivery drivers may be deliberately misleading retailers; mistakes might be made in delivering gasoline from pipelines to terminals to trucks to retail tanks; and dispensers at gasoline stations might not function properly.