Gasoline Boycott Idiocy

Some of you may have gotten an email recently about not buying gas on May 15th. Here’s the body of the email:

Don’t pump gas on MAY 15th

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

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 15t h, it would take
$2,292,000,000.00 (that’s almost 3 BILLION) 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 (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 15th”

Sounds like a great idea, right? Wrong. This is an urban legend that’s been around since at least ’99. It doesn’t work, and I’ll try to briefly explain why.

It requires no sacrifice, hence no change in consumption. No one’s being asked to reduce the amount of gas (and therefore oil) they use — they’re simply asked to shift which day they purchase it on.

The gas companies don’t suddenly find themselves with an excess of product (which, if they did, would theoretically drop prices — supply and demand, and all that jazz). All that would happen, even if everyone who read this email participated in the boycott*, is that there’d be more gas purchased on May 14th and May 16th and less on May 15th. It’s like skipping lunch; you’ll just make up for it by eating a bigger dinner. Continuing that analogy, if you want to lose weight, it requires a prolonged commitment to calorie reduction.

The only way for action at the consumer level to lower gasoline prices is to decrease demand, which can be done two ways: driving a more fuel efficient car, or reducing consumption (aka driving less).


*Boycott isn’t really an accurate description of what’s happening here. If I want to boycott Spiderman 3, that doesn’t mean I wait until Saturday to see it instead of going opening day. I refuse to watch it altogether.

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