01 May, 2007

Gas Protest and Other Stupid Ideas

Updated I - Updated II - Updated III
On May 15, some percentage of MySpace users will show their solidarity and not buy any gasoline for a single day. This is, of course, a ridiculous idea.

The bulletin reads thus (there are a few different versions, I am picking on the most common):
Dont buy gas may 15th PROTEST

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 (that's almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companys 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 (which I can't see why you wouldn't) resend this to all your contact list. With it saying, ''Don't pump gas on May 15"

The anonymous author wants us to envision a panicked DEFCON-like underground war room full of fat oil tycoons watching in sheer terror as, like in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, their gas profits blink off across the country like the power grid winking off in entire cities, counties, states. The horror, the horror!

Folks, lets come back down to reality. Gas is the food that makes the corpus of our nation go. If you and I don't eat for a day, then we are even hungrier the next day, or the day after, or whenever we end our fast. Or we die.

But what is this "protest" about anyway? What social good does lower gas prices do America as a society? Or is this simple a punitive measure, a desperate cry of irate consumers who subconsciously want to punish someone, anyone for the feeling of a loss of power?

In that light, this protest, ineffective as it will be, makes more sense. In the Summer of 2007, likely to be one of the hottest on record, we find ourselves mired in a war which has claimed more lives than the unrelated event that caused a very vocal minority in power to seek to prosecute this war. Our leaders on the right and the left are as corrupt as ever. American's have lost hope, which is why Sanjaya gets a better voter turnout than national elections, forget about local general elections. A growing meritocracy of wealthy lobbyists and think-tanks guide our nations policies, making the voter nearly irrelevant.

Who wouldn't want to "stick it to the man?"

Well, boycotting gasoline for a single day isn't a very good way to do it, and the raison d'etre of wanting to lower gas prices is wrong headed. The may 15 gas protest is another idiotic ideal of supposedly progressive liberals which will only embolden the status quo. I put this idea in the "ethanol column", because pressuring our government to "do something" about rising gas prices will only tether us further to Arab and South American oil producers. (Ethanol requires more gas to create and transport than is saved in using corn instead of oil).

I dont plan on pumping gas may 15th or probably the fifteen days preceding and following may 15th.

Much of the trouble we get ourselves into stems from the artificial deflation of gas prices. But if gas prices were in line with the prices in europe (roughly $7 a gallon), Americans would:

  • conserve energy
  • buy smaller cars
  • carpool
  • ride bicycles
  • use mass transit
  • reduce the number of vehicular injuries and fatalities

    Are our policy makers are afraid of hemorrhaging jobs overseas if gas prices shoot up? We have been for decades, in case anyone hasn't been paying attention in Cleveland or Detroit or the rest of the rust belt.

    America has been without meaningful new industry since world war II. Steel manufacture is down, consumer electronics is barely alive, and our auto industry relies on the kindness of strangers (Japan and Germany). Why not invest in green industry? This is what Global Climate Change deniers do not acknowledge, because maintaining the status quo is Big Oil's number one goal, yet surely there are jobs there.

    Furthermore, the rate of employment simply cannot dip under a certain rate or there would be no one to sell products to, or worse, no one to pay taxes (the rich don't, the government has to make money somewhere). Oil price caps do not take a long view of enconomics. Oil price caps are therefore bad policy. In order for our government to ensure we pay half of what Europeans pay for petrol our foreign policy effort support ogliarchies of all stripes, dictatorships and anti-Democratic governments the world over. Your tax dollars are at work, and for that cheap price-tag at the gas pump women are still held in servitude as second class citizens in the Middle East, genocide is overlooked in sub-Saharan Africa, coups are fomented in South America.

    Do we really want to continue our secret and not-so-secret machinations, putting flame dangerously near to the powder-keg of second- and third-world societies for the sake of cheap oil?

    I can think of roughly 6,300 reasons not to.

    Update - 5/7/2007
    Excellent post on Green Options about the ineffectiveness of the gas out:
    What a great idea: 72-million MySpace members avoiding gas stations for one day. I didn't do the math ( too complicated for me!), but based on a fill-up costing between $20 and $30, the boycott would cost the Middle Eastern oil companies more than $2,000,000.000 in revenue. That's $2 Billion. Wow!

    But, wait a minute. There's only one hitch to this great idea. To pull it off, all 72 million who drive a gasoline-fueled vehicle would have to leave their cars, trucks or whatever, home for 24 hours and take a bus, ride a bike, walk or hitch a ride with someone who doesn't care. You can bet your baby-blue-booties it ain't gonna work.

    And what about those who do avoid filling stations for 24-hours and still drive? Well, bunky, think about this. On May 14, the price of gas will be, let's say for the sake of argument, $2.85 a gallon. So you drive on the 15th, and you burn several gallons of gas, which eventually has to be replaced. On the 16th, the price of petrol jumps to $2.95 a gallon. So on your next fill-up, you'll pay $.10 more for a gallon of gas, and the oil companies would have made a modest profit anyway.

    Update - 5/9/2007

    And of course, I refer you all to Snopes.com "Gas Out" article:

    Gas Out

    Claim: Participating in a boycott of selected oil companies will lower gasoline prices.

    Status: False

    This article deals specifically with the May 15, 2007 "Gas Out".
  • The difference between a country with a volunteer army and a compulsory one?

    It would seem that a country with compulsory military service is more accountable than one without.


    Will comment further later.