Wednesday, May 9, 2007

It Will Only Have a MAXIMum Effect

I received the following e-mail from a friend the other day:


In April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted
nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices
dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On May 15th 2007, all internet users are to not go to
a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is
now over $3.00 a gallon in most places.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on
the internet network, and the average car takes about
30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it
would take $2,292,000,000.00 out of the oil companies'
pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the
gas station on May 15th and lets try to put a dent in
the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

If you agree send this to all of your contact list.


The first thing that struck me is that not buying gas for a day is a nice idea but rather futile. After all, if you don't fill up on May 15, you'll probably have to on May 14 or May 16 and the "Middle Eastern" oil industry will still get your cash.

The second thing that struck me is how cheap gas still is in most of the United States as compared to Canada, despite the fact that Canada is one of the world's largest producers of gas and has, I believe, the second-largest reserves. We export gas to the US. In other words, Americans pay less for our gas than we do. In Vancouver, the price is now regularly over $5 a gallon (a little over $4 US), and that's for the cheap stuff. Vancouverites also pay about the highest rates in Canada, much more than, for instance, Toronto where people have been whining about paying $1.10 a litre while we pay more than $1.25. I'm assuming government taxes are generally to blame.

Number three was that not using gas for a day doesn't actually cost the gas companies a cent and that the contention that if all 73 million Americans on the internet didn't buy gas for a day it would cost the companies $2.3 billion dollars is patently false. The only way that would work is if everyone filled up on the same day all the time and that day was the same day of the week that May 15 falls on. In fact, at best, we could assume it would cost the companies roughly $300 million (one-seventh to reflect the fact there are seven days in a week). Where it would cost the gas companies, it's true, is in side revenues - the sales of point of purchase products such as coffee, candy bars, cigarettes etc. It is possible you could quite actually dent gas company profits if everyone agreed to buy only gas from them.

Point four is that while this is a nice symbolic gesture to show the oil companies how pissed off we are at their record profits and the fact that when gas goes up on the world market in price it's reflected immediately at the pumps while when it goes down it seemingly takes weeks for the price change, it's fairly useless.

Point five is that there are oil companies that use only North American gas. In Canada, those companies are Mohawk and Husky which, may God bless them, carry not an iota of arab oil. Why they don't promote that as hard as they possibly can is beyond me.

Lastly, if we really do want to send a message to gas companies and the MidEast oil barons, the answer lies in keeping our vehicles parked whenever possible, carpooling, buying hybrids, not buying Hummers and other gas-guzzling SUVs, etc. If you really need an SUV, both Saturn (the Vue) and Ford (the Escape) make them in a hybrid; I know, I'm looking at purchasing one or the other in the next few weeks.

While I wish everyone luck in not buying gas on the 15th, I would hesitate for anyone to think this will have an impact whatsoever except to give a few gas jockeys the opportunity to spend more of their day reading Maxim and wiping down the counters.


Bar Kochba said...

It should be a national priority, a matter of national security, for all Western countries to institute a Manhattan Project to find an alternative source of energy. Let the Arabs drink their oil!

southfield_2001 said...

you bet, bar kochba.
I've long believed that, for instance, instead of going to war in Iraq, the US could have forced the ME's hand by using that money to fund mass transit, tax breaks for technological improvements and other alternatives to using oil (including building more nuclear power plants).
bottom line: fuck the arab world. Let them go back to killing each other on camel back with swords.

Catherine said...

I fill up only once every two weeks or so, anyway.

I once heard of a different idea for trying to lower gas prices, and it sounded like it might have a much better chance of working than just a one-day boycott would. It had to do with singling out two different gas suppliers (Mobil and one other) and boycotting them entirely. The idea was that this would force those two companies to lower their prices, which would in turn start a price-lowering war. Interesting idea, but I doubt enough people could be mobilized (no pun intended) for it to work.

Plus, aren't there national or state pricing minimums for gas? I read this article today which seems to indicate that there are:

In any event, I agree with Bar Kochba -- finding viable alternative fuel sources should be a national priority.

Michael said...

I got that email, too, and deleted it. First, as you have pointed out, it won't do much, and second, I don't have a car. I'm already screwing the oil companies.

You are spot-on about alternative energy sources. What's maddening about it is that the US and Canada don't even need to turn away from oil, so much.

Why not buy from Mexico, and seriously exploit the oil shales of the Rocky Mountains? Between them, Alberta, Colorado, and Utah are sitting on recoverable oil shales and sands containing up to 6 times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.

The oil companies say it would cost too much to get that oil; yet with oil running at $50+ dollars per barrel, and oil shale costing about $27 per barrel to produce, that argument does not hold much water.

Or oil.