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MORE Comments on the Great American 'Gas Out'

There's still a sharp split in opinion as to the merits of the Great 'Gas Out' protest scheduled for April 30, as demonstrated by this further sampling of reader comments (and my thanks go out to all who have written)...

I read your commentary, and somewhat agree with you. On the other hand, and in concert with your analysis of the Great Gas Out, I fail to see where the loss of a couple of refineries would affect the gasoline prices as drastically as they've been affected. After all, we have refineries all over the country and it seems that the loss of a couple of them would affect the prices of gasoline about the same as the Great Gas Out would.

I received a different email re this subject. I don't have the copy as I deleted it, then read your article. The idea was better. Instead of one day, which you and I know will make no difference, the email purposed thirty days at a time. First no one buys from Shell for 30 days, Then no Arco for 30 days, and then the next until every company has been boycotted. I bet 30 days of no sales will kick them where it hurts.

Coming from Europe 27 years ago when gasoline was @ $2.00 gl and seeing it now at over $4.00 the shrinking of cars has been noticeable! So: smaller engine = less gas. Good. Now less gas = double prices! You need gas, right? We haven't gotten rid of the cars yet. So in the 27 years span who's been the winner or the loser. I'll let you figure it out. However I must say that, if we, the market, can devise a stratagem to impact it, well let's do it! We must start somewhere. Could this be the first step? I'm willing to try it and get out my bike!

Response to all those who have responded already (because really, who are you trying to convince?)

I see no reason NOT to join the protest. As you said in your editorial, this is an entirely painless gesture. However:

OPEC is going to laugh their collective ass off when they hear about this. And then they're going to raise the price even more. The only way they'll be affected is if gas use here in the US is actually and permanently lowered.

So take the bus!

REALLY! You miss the point. Will we buy gas that day? Maybe, maybe not. But this is not about affecting demand. It's about PROTEST. It's about making a statement. Why do we were red ribbons, pink ribbons, yellow ribbons? Why do we vote? Because that one vote makes all the difference? Not.

The fact that the protest is being referenced in news reports and Hoax/Rumor pages shows that it is effective. It's not about affecting demand -- it's about making a statement. You noticed. So will the gas companies. Will the prices change? Of course not. But if I forward this message to everybody I know, it's much more effective than e-mailing the oil companies.

Read the article on the Great Gas Out. Gas in the S.F. Bay Area went from $1.01 at my station to $1.68. I read yesterday that reported "earnings for the state oil refineries averaged 70 cent per gallon the week of April 12, up 27 cents per galon the week of March 1st. Surplus unleaded sold to independants increased from 26 cents to 58 cents during the same time and for two weeks was in the 75-77 cent range."

Maybe we can't stop buying the gas but when was the last time you were in a station that didn't have a food mart? If everyone would stop buying at the food marts that would hurt.

I am inclined to fall in line with your thinking on this. If we buy gas the day after or the day before the Gas Out, what's the net impact on the oil company? Nothing.

However, here in Connecticut, a gas station owner in Stamford, who is the head honcho of some national gas station owner's group (wish I could be more specific), has endorsed this protest as a way to show the oil companies we're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it any more. I heard an interview with the man on our venerable and respected NPR station as part on 'Morning Edition' on 4/21/99 or 4/22/99. Apparently this gentleman has requested the support of all his fellow gas station owners in this protest. Let's see; he has requested that his constituency voluntarily and dramatically reduce their income and support him in biting the hand that feeds them all. I wonder if this will hurt his chances for reelection to his post next time?

Anyway, this urban legend has gone mainstream.

The Gas Out may have its roots in two things: 1) It may be an implicit commentary by millions of drivers who know that they waste a lot of fuel in riding for fun, inefficiently planned trips, etc; 2) those of us who lived through the "gas shortages" of the 70's ultimately were told that the real reason for lines at gas stations was because of a panic mentality that caused people to more frequently top off half-full gas tanks, resulting in an enormous gas supply on wheels that would not normally exist. I agree that one day will not effect gas prices - that would take months of concerted effort to fundamentally decrease the amount of driving millions of Americans take for granted. Keep up the good work on behalf of reason.

First of all, no one is suggesting that "we the people" are powerless. If you wish to assert your power, however, do it in a logical way that will make a real difference, not some half-baked plan that is nothing more than a popular bit of net-babble. In our last election, we had some of the lowest voter turnouts in history. GET INVOLVED, People. If an extra million people hit the polls, perhaps this country could get a foreign policy that makes sense and then we could affect what happens in the middle east.

Second, your beef is with OPEC, not Exxon, Mobil, Texaco, etc. Because of the smoothing effect of time and distance, OPEC will never even catch wind of your plan. Remember they are supplying oil all over the world, not just to America (yes folks, they have cars in other countries).

Third, do you honestly think that 10 million gallons of gas is even going to show up as a blip on Exxon's spreadsheet? These companies are selling tens of BILLIONS of gallons of gas every day. Yes, we DO use up oil at that rate. Not to mention the oil that goes to heating, lubrication, textiles, etc. Only a portion of the oil we buy from OPEC goes to gas. Most goes to manufacturing, so you had better leave your sneakers home too.

Fourth, we get much of our fuel supply from Alaska, Mexico and many other places other than the middle east, so there's even more smoothing.

Fifth, QUIT YOUR BITCHING! In Europe, Gas is selling for over $2.50 per litre! Try paying $10 a gallon and then tell me about how the oil companies are gouging us! There is nowhere else in the world where you can get gasoline as cheaply as you can in America. Its the main reason why we have such a love affair with our cars. Europeans ride bikes and walk places, cars are just for trips. You don't see too many Expeditions and Suburbans in England, in fact a Ford Escort is considered a mid-size.

Folks, use your brains! Just because someone throws some nonsense out on the Internet it doesn't mean that it is true, or even makes sense. If you want to make a difference, get involved in the polical process and stop believing everything that CBS news tells you. Pick up a newspaper! Read a book! Form your opinions based on facts, not the opinions of others.

Ok, maybe it did start out as a hoax, but the great Gas Out is really catching on. EVERYBODY I know, even if they don't have a computer, knows about it. And about it not working, believe me, it will. Ok, so maybe the gas thing will cause "no more than a blip on the oil producers' spread sheets", but gas isn't the only thing people buy at gasoline stations. Do you realize how many people buy food, cigarettes, car washes, and all types of things from gasoline stations? If no one stops by to purchase gas on a particular day, the gasoline stations lose A LOT of money by not having customers buying these other things. It means no sales at the Gas Station Subway or A&W, people will buy their cigarettes or beer elsewhere, people will wash their cars somewhere else or do it at home, and so on. It WILL hurt the gas companies.

I certainly hope the Great Gas Out is a success. The students of the sixties could have held the same view as you have now. Where would we be in that case? Protest is oftentimes healthy. Hopefully everyone does listen to your suggestion to refrain from using vehicles that require gasoline as fuel. That one day's sales of gasoline will be gone forever even if everyone waited until the next day to buy their gas. Maybe the masses will realize that they don't need as much gas as they thought. I think the idea is a wonder-fuel one and I say to everyone, "on 30 April, don't be fuel-ish, don't buy fuel."

After seeing that (much to my surprise) the majority of your readers support the "Gas Out," I had to write and let you know that there are definitely those of us out here who agree with you. The whole thing is silly and irresponsible, in my opinion. All of the arguments you raised are valid. To this I would add that 1) oil is a nonrenewable resource, and we should really be focusing on conservation and alternative energy sources rather than gobbling it up as cheaply as we can; and 2) if people really want to pay less for gas, perhaps they should trade in their SUV's for small, fuel-efficient cars and use less gas on a regular basis rather than depending on the government to keep petroleum prices artificially low or whatever it is they want. Now there's the way to hit oil companies in the pocketbook, in my opinion. As you indicated, it's ridiculous to complain about gas prices when they were $.75 to $.80 for a couple of months this winter and are now way back up to $1.00 or $1.10 -- the price, if memory serves, that gas was at about 5 years ago here (although I can speak only for the upper Midwest; maybe people in CA or other places are getting hit harder). Also, when people aren't being encouraged to walk, carpool, or take public transportation, the same amount of gas will be purchased overall, and I doubt if the oil companies will even notice that one day of lower profits over the long run. I've received this e-mail from a couple of people who I thought would be a little more sensible, so it must appeal to a lot of people. I guess the idea of defeating the oil companies is pretty attractive, but I agree with you that this is pretty much a pointless way to go about it.

  (Updated: 04/24/99)

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