09 May 2007

'Tis the Season for another Useless Gas Boycott

Oh goody, here we go again!

It's time for the Annual Useless Call to Boycott Buying Gas. This time, the date of the "Gas Out" (sounds like an unfortunate experience at a Mexican restaurant, if you ask me) is set for May 19th (or the 15th in some emails). If you haven't gotten the email calling for the boycott forwarded to you, don't fret. Some well-meaning friend will ship it to you post-haste.

Oh hell, I'll do it. Here's one I received, with my comments. Remember, you are more convincing and professional IF YOU WRITE IN ALL-CAPS!!!!!!!!

IT HAS BEEN CALCULATED [a reference to the study would be nice] THAT IF EVERYONE IN THE UNITED STATES DID NOT PURCHASE A DROP OF GASOLINE FOR ONE DAY AND ALL AT THE SAME TIME, THE OIL COMPANIES WOULD CHOKE ON THEIR STOCKPILES.

AT THE SAME TIME IT WOULD HIT THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY WITH A NET LOSS OF OVER 4.6 BILLION DOLLARS [can I see the raw data?] WHICH AFFECTS THE BOTTOM LINES OF THE OIL COMPANIES. THEREFORE MAY 19TH HAS BEEN FORMALLY DECLARED "STICK IT UP THEIR BEHINDS DAY" AND THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION SHOULD NOT BUY A SINGLE DROP OF GASOLINE THAT DAY.

THE ONLY WAY THIS CAN BE DONE IS IF YOU FORWARD THIS E-MAIL TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN [because they aren't already receiving enough penile enlargement and weight-loss spam] AND AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN TO GET THE WORD OUT.

WAITING ON THIS ADMIINSTRATION [sic] TO STEP IN AND CONTROL THE PRICES IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. [The 'waiting' is not going to happen?] WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REDUCTION AND CONTROL IN PRICES THAT THE ARAB NATIONS PROMISED TWO WEEKS AGO? [Nothing, as there was no promise "two weeks ago."]

REMEMBER ONE THING [don't type in all caps], NOT ONLY IS THE PRICE OF GASOLINE GOING UP BUT AT THE SAME TIME AIRLINES ARE FORCED TO RAISE THEIR PRICES, TRUCKING COMPANIES ARE FORCED TO RAISE THEIR PRICES WHICH EFFECTS [sic] PRICES ON EVERYTHING THAT IS SHIPPED. THINGS LIKE FOOD, CLOTHING, BUILDING MATERIALS, MEDICAL SUPPLIES ETC. WHO PAYS IN THE END? WE DO!

WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. IF THEY DON'T GET THE MESSAGE AFTER ONE DAY [wait, didn't you just say last year's boycott worked?], WE WILL DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN. [More spam emails next year!]

SO DO YOUR PART [and delete this email] AND SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW [because who needs to have friends]. MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND MAKE MAY 19TH A DAY THAT THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES SAY "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH." [No, that was election day last year.]

There's a myriad of reasons this doesn't work, and Snopes has kindly outlined all of them. It's another example of what they've termed "Slacktivism": appearing to make a difference while making no effort at all.

It comes down to one simple fact: not buying gas on May 19th is no sacrifice at all. It's simply planning to buy gas so as to not make your purchase on a specific day. For example, I believe I've "participated" in every one of these boycotts for the last five years because I didn't need to purchase any gas on that particular day. I just filled up my tank last night (at $3.39 a gallon—and that's cheap for my area!), and with my driving habits I won't need to buy gas on May 19th, and am therefore "participating." Millions will "participate" in the same way. So, logically, this boycott does no good at all.

Gas prices are ludicrously, criminally high, and we should all worry about it and all do something about it. The high prices are gas gouging, pure and simple. Political pressure against these blood-sucking petroleum companies is one way to have an effect. Please watch the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? to see how our dependence on natural gas is a fiction that Big Oil sells to keep them in business while the environment and the public suffer. But there are many more immediate ways to affect the price of gasoline—genuine sacrifices you can make. Drive less (I've cut down significantly in the last year). Take public transportation more often. Carpool to work. Buy a hybrid.

But skipping buying gas on May 19th? No help at all.