Gas Out Days


Many of you have heard of consumer efforts to reduce gasoline prices, such as gas out days when we are encouraged not to buy gas, and boycotts of companies that allegedly maintain the highest prices or the greatest pricing control. However, prices are based primarily on demand. Refusing to buy gasoline on a specific day or from a specific company does not reduce the amount of gas consumed, and therefore has no effect on demand...or prices.

Back in the late '70s, an artificial "shortage" was created by OPEC in order to raise prices. People were allowed to buy gasoline only on odd or even days, based on license plate numbers. This created panic, and although prices rose daily, there were long lines at the pumps and people waited, fuming, to pay. So what happened? America's trade position became stronger, allowing us to keep oil prices artificially low. Fuel-efficient cars became popular. Legislation passed which prohibited car manufacturers from producing fuel-inefficient cars. The concept of carpooling came into being. And gas prices went down.

They have risen only very slowly in the past two decades, due both to America's strong trade position and improved driving habits, until recently. We have enjoyed almost twenty years of nearly the lowest price per gallon in the whole world, and have come to expect it as a right.

With the rising popularity of sport utility and other fuel-inefficient vehicles (which aren't classed as "cars" and therefore are not subject to fuel efficiency regulations), reduced carpooling, and other factors, gasoline providers have decided once again to pull a "shortage" and raise prices. Our best ammunition in fighting this is not gas out days or boycotts against only one company. It is in reducing demand. How can we do this? By changing our thinking. Can you carpool one or two days a week? Can you change your habits when driving to or from work or school to include errands, so that you don't make separate trips to the grocery store, post office, bank, cleaners, etc.? Can you share a ride with a friend when going out for the evening instead of meeting there? This suggestion has the added benefit of shared parking fees and added safety when walking to and from the car. Are there any errands you can safely do by walking or riding a bike? If you own a gas guzzler, the next time you buy a car, will you consider a fuel-efficient or even an electric car for normal driving? Most SUVs get far worse gas mileage than my mother's 12-year-old Chrysler New Yorker. You can always share or rent a larger vehicle when you really need one. ALL vehicles should be kept tuned up and tires inflated correctly, so that they run as efficiently as possible. For those comfortable with the internet, many errands can be run online. Can you persuade a friend, neighbor, or family member to do at least one of the above? Small changes like these can make a large difference in the amount of gasoline Americans consume.

If we can reduce demand to meet the"shortage" imposed by gasoline companies, they will lower their prices in order to increase demand. It's important that we keep up our improved habits when they do, or prices will rise again. Naturally, these actions will also reduce pollution and extend the life of our cars, engine oil, and tires. Personally, I have made a commitment to ride my bicycle to work two days a week during the summer. While not everyone can do this, there are other small ways you can make a huge difference. All you have to do is try.


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