Gas boycott gets mixed reactions
May 12, 2007
Another chain letter is swirling around the world of e-mail.
This one promises we can drop the record-high gas prices if we stick together. "Together we can make a difference," it reads at the end of the e-mail.
The message is calling on everyone to stay away from the pumps on May 15. Reportedly, a similar grassroots "gas out" campaign happened in April of 1997. "Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight," it claims.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported Thursday that the claim was a myth. Nevertheless, could it actually make a difference? If all Internet users actually didn’t pump gas May 15, the e-mail states it would take almost "$3 billion out of the oil companies’ pockets for just one day and let’s try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day."
Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott, who has read the e-mail, has her doubts about its validity and overall influence on the oil industry.
"I’m not sure how to send the strongest message to oil companies, and I’m not sure this is the best way. I’m not sure it would send the message that we want." Elliott said.
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If everyone boycotts gas next Tuesday, then Monday and Wednesday might see spikes in gas use, which may offset the group’s goal. Elliott said it would be better if people cut down on their gas use over the long haul.
"If everybody got out of their cars and drove their bicycles or walked, it might send a stronger message," Elliott said. "We need to reduce our overall consumption. That might be a good day for everyone to use public transit or alternative transportation."
As a county commissioner, Elliott said she tries to buy gas from stations all over Summit County to support the local economy. Missing one day’s profits could hurt local owners.
"I gassed up at Tommy Moore’s Chevron in Coalville yesterday. By not pumping on Tuesday, I’d just deprive a local merchant of income," Elliott said. "There’s no message to send on a national basis. I do that at the ballot box. If I boycott local merchants, I hurt the local economy."
Dick Woolstenhulme, of Dutch’s Service station in Oakley, doesn’t think that the boycott will work and his service station won’t be affected.
"I think somebody’s got a rock loose in their head," Woolstenhulme said. "Why the hell would they boycott on the 15th, if they are just going to fill up the day before or the day after?"
Woolstenhulme said, to make any difference, people have to quit driving altogether.
"They’re not going to do that because they don’t have enough energy to walk down the block," Woolstenhulme said. Nobody will pay any attention to it. People aren’t going to change their habits."
Woolstenhulme added that there are other industries with skyrocketing prices that are being ignored.
"Ask them if they are going to boycott those real estate prices that’s gone to hell," he said.
Woolstenhulme said his shop doesn’t have anything to do with marking up process and his profits show it.
"If it goes to $5, we will still get the same profit now as when it was a dollar," Woolstenhulme said. "And by the time we pay our 3 percent on credit cards that everybody’s using now days, that takes 50 percent of our profit."
Carol Potter, executive director of the Mountain Trails Foundation, has also seen the e-mail and said she will take part in it.
"Oh yeah, I’m a great advocate for walking and biking and working on the carbon footprint," Potter said. "Any way that we can persuade people to get out of the car and walk or ride bikes is fine with me."
She, however, won’t do it with the expectation that gas prices will fall. But she does see it as another way to help the environment, like an added "Bike to Work Day" that she is promoting later this month.
"I wish it could, but I don’t know if it can," Potter said about any impact it could have on the oil industry. "I’ve seen these promotions come through over the years and you never know what kind of an effect it can have. I wish they would have done it with ‘Bike to Work Day,’ that would be a great promotion but we will take what we can get."
People around the state seem to have strong opinions about the gas boycott. On "Rants and Raves" on the site Craigslist.com, one anonymous writer wrote, "Does it really matter what day we buy gas if we are still driving our cars? If we are still driving our cars on that day, we are eventually going to have to buy the gas we would have bought, on that day. Instead of just not buying gas on the 15th, why don’t we just not drive anywhere on the weekend of the 19th and the 20th. Then we won’t have to replace any of the fuel we used."
Another writer wrote, "I don’t know if boycotting the purchase of fuel on one day will make an impact (but) I am going to do it anyway."
Regardless of what it might do for gas prices, Potter said she too doesn’t want to hurt the local businesses by boycotting gas.
"We know that these guys don’t control the gas prices," Potter said. "The poor girls in checkout probably get the worst of it."
Potter said it may be a good idea to bike or walk to a gas station and buy food or beverages, if one doesn’t want to buy gas that day, just to support the local economy.
"Let them know we care but we’re just tired of the prices," Potter said. "I’m taking a more positive approach to it on a positive local scale, rather than fight with big (oil companies). To me, it’s not a movement, but an excuse to walk or ride your bike."
This is an added benefit to help Parkites be aware of their carbon footprint as more locals, Potter said, are conscious of the benefits of alternative transportation.
"We are hearing, every day now, that more people are going to participate on ‘Bike to Work Day.’" Potter said. "100 kids are biking to Ecker Hill, it’s getting a tremendous amount of support."