Think you're paying too much at the pump? Perhaps you are – but not as much as those gassing up in Maine. No, the Pine Tree State doesn't have the highest gas prices in the land (that would still be Hawaii), but it does have a problem with out-of-spec gas pumps. According to state inspection officials, several stations have been found with multiple pumps delivering less fuel than customers are paying for, some of them so inaccurate that the agriculture department has had to order them immediately shut down.

Worse yet, the state lacks the resources to determine whether gas stations owners are purposefully shorting customers or these problems are just random occurrences. While officials say one out-of-spec pump that's not delivering enough fuel might be balanced by one that's flowing more freely than it should, recent inspections have discovered pumps operating up to seven times outside the allowable margin of error. Yet the state can't readily analyze the data it collects during inspections because of outdated computer systems – and a staff of only nine inspectors.

Maine politicians are understandably upset about the issue, but in these times of widespread deficits and budget slashing, it remains to be seen whether they will do anything about it. Of course, Maine is probably not unique in having an overworked weights and measures staff, so we wonder whether we might notice this issue popping up in other places around the country?


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