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CONSUMER OUTRAGE: Did ExxonMobil Sell Tainted Gasoline That Could Disable a Quarter Million Cars?

Five million gallons of gas sold in Louisiana can potentially harm the engines of many of the region's cars.
 
 
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An ExxonMobil gasoline terminal in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is the source of "atypical" gasoline which can harm up to 250,000 vehicles on the road, according to a class-action suit in Federal Court. At least 5 million gallons of “skunky gas” has been distributed. In response the concerns about its gas, the oil giant shut down the terminal which supplies gasoline to retailers in southern Louisiana.

In the past month, Louisiana's Department of Agriculture and Forestry has gotten numerous complaints from consumers who say they bought bad gasoline, with the bulk of calls coming in the first week of April. The department investigated the claims, testing the gasoline and three suspect gasoline retailers. They found nothing out of the ordinary.

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, James Smith, claims that "Exxon has apologized for the damage its defective product has caused, but has not released the details of the defect, or the location of the sale of the defective and dangerous fuel." Smith claims that the tainted gasoline had been distributed for about a year, beginning in April 2013. The lawsuit also claims Exxon made false promises about the quality of its "Top Tier Detergent Gasoline."

"The fuel sold by Exxon not only failed to meet the standards promised by its advertising, but the fuel actively harmed vital engine parts and rendered the engine inoperable, or in a diminished functional capacity,” according to the complaint. “This diminished functional capacity includes the reduced engine performance Exxon warned could happen if customers used 'lower quality gasoline.'”

The complaint also alleges that Exxon was aware of the problem, and admitted to multiple sources that it sold 120,000 barrels, or 5,040,000 gallons, of defective gasoline, mostly in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area. Reports have surfaced of damaged vehicles in other southern Louisiana locations.

Louisiana's Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Mike Strain said consumers are complaining that the intake and valve stems of their vehicles are inexplicably gumming up. Strain says the problem is limited to two batches of gasoline shipped between March 12 and March 15.

About half of the gasoline sold in the Baton Rouge area comes from the Exxon terminal. 

Cliff Weathers is a senior editor at AlterNet, covering environmental and consumer issues. He is a former deputy editor at Consumer Reports. His work has also appeared in Salon, Car and Driver, Playboy, and Detroit Monthly among other publications. Follow him on Twitter @cliffweathers and on Facebook.

 
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