Posted in: Gas Prices,
by Gregg Laskoski on Apr 16, 2012 11:47 AM
Facebook, like all other sources of social media, shares information at lightning speed, but it's up to you to determine facts from fiction. They don't have any filters for common sense through which messages must pass.
If you have email or a Facebook account, undoubtedly at some point you've received some interesting, unsolicited communication designed to help consumers become personally involved in an effort to reduce the price of gas at the pump.
The latest version arrived via Facebook this past weekend telling us "Don't pump gas on April 15, 2012". It suggested that if your tank was running low, then you should buy your gas on April 14 or today, April 16.
Oddly enough, it noted that "In April 1997 there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight." Funny, I don't remember that. And there's good reason. It didn't happen.
The recent missive went on to say that "if all users did not go to the pump on April 15, it would take $2.29 billion out of the oil companies pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on April 15th and let's try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day."
If this message sounds familiar, it's because it was copied verbatim from an urban legend that circulated five years ago in April, 2007.
Let's look at this logically. If you continue to drive as much this week as you did last week, and all you do is change the day when you fill your tank, what are you accomplishing? You're certainly not reducing consumption; you're merely displacing or postponing the time of replenishment. That can cause disruption to distributor deliveries to retailers but there would be no impact on 'Big Oil.' Industry profits for the month, if not the week, would end up unchanged.
Any effective boycott would require consumers to actually reduce consumption, rather than shifting acquisition habits.
Another popular urban legend that has made the rounds is the email suggesting that by boycotting Exxon and Mobil consumers could bring ExxonMobil to its knees. That communique began around 2007.
Here's an excerpt: "For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers."
The author overlooks the fact that by removing the largest sellers in an effort to shift market share, there's no reason to expect other retailers not to increase price if the volume of motorists that ordinarily went to competitors like ExxonMobil miraculously arrived at their pumps. It may be well-intended but nonetheless, it's a simplistic idea not likely to yield quantifiable results.
As an alternative to these schemes, we recommend maintaining your vehicle to maximize fuel economy. Keep tire pressure at the level suggested by your vehicle's owner's manual; make sure you have a clean air filter; reduce the weight the vehicle carries (empty the junk out of the trunk!); get a wheel alignment --especially if you can't remember when that was done last-- and, slow down. Avoid the hard starts and stops. Collectively, all of these tips can get you more miles per tankful!