Reasoning with the whiners – why gasoline boycotts won’t work – Brief Article – Column

Thomas R. Wright

While this probably won’t come as a surprise, one of the larger online news entities has shown recently that it is just as liberally biased as one of its parents, an old-style media company. In case you missed it, carried the article, “Big Energy at the Table,” in its May 14, 2001, edition, which also included the titillating subtitle, “Winning support for your agenda is easy when your allies fill out the administration’s top chairs.”

Written by Howard Fineman and Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, the article snidely described a meeting held nine days before George W. Bush was inaugurated. They said, “If you were in the oil and gas business, it was a meeting that dreams were made of–energy lobbyists gathered at the American Petroleum Institute’s offices in downtown Washington.” The agenda was to write a wish list. Fineman, et al., claimed the tone was, “OK, what do you guys want? You are going to have the ear of this White House.”

Supposedly, an easel and whiteboard were brought in to record the flood of ideas–looser rules for drilling on federal lands, more drilling in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico, lower royalty payments for tapping offshore wells, etc. But when the article said, “After a while, the mood in the room grew giddy,” we began to wonder if we were supposed to feel ashamed of finally having the ear of a President who may be more apt to agree with us.

Well, forget it. Now’s precisely the time for this industry to seize the opportunity for making it perfectly clear that we are perilously close to another energy crisis–and not just in the U.S.

Now, this doesn’t mean we should all run around yelling, “I told you so.” But it does offer the chance for a reasoned explanation of what the problem is, and how it can be mitigated. Unfortunately, people like Fineman and Isikoff will have to be convinced to carry the message. And that won’t be easy, since they already see the folks that Bush has picked to advise him on energy as the proverbial fox guarding the hen house. The Independent Petroleum Association of America just announced such a program. We wish them luck.

Another goofy idea. Last year about this time, we reported on a witless proposal by some Americans to punish oil companies for high (in the U.S., anyway) gasoline prices. That idea, which obviously didn’t have any effect, was for everybody to skip buying gasoline on a single day.

The latest fad, which came via a forwarded e-mail, starts by saying, “Now that the oil companies and OPEC have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas(oline) is cheap at less than $1.50 (per gallon), we need to try an aggressive response. With the price of gas(oline) going up more each day, we consumers need to take action.” (Don’t you wish consumers would learn the difference between gas and gasoline?)

The anonymous author writes that the only way we are going to see the price of gasoline come down is if we don’t buy it. But he (or she) does admit that this isn’t really practical since Americans are especially reliant upon their cars. However, if everybody acts together, he thinks this would impact gasoline prices.

Here’s the idea–for the rest of this year, we are urged to avoid buying gasoline from ExxonMobil. The concept is that if the company isn’t selling gasoline, it should be inclined to reduce its prices, and if it does lower prices, the other companies will follow suit.

The e-mailer realizes that to have an impact, the idea must reach literally millions of users. “But,” he says, “it’s doable!” He said he is sending his brain cramp to 42 people, and if each of them send it to at least 10 more, and those 10 send it to at least 10 more, and so on, he will reach more than a million consumers.

What our genius doesn’t realize is that if he is successful in promoting a boycott of ExxonMobil, about all he will accomplish will be to punish the independent service-station owners that sell the company’s gasoline. With U.S. refineries now running at full capacity, the gasoline not sold through an Exxon-Mobil station will simply be sold through a competing station.

These brain cramps don’t just afflict the common folk, either. In fact, Bianca Jagger in London is urging drivers to boycott Esso as well–not to lower gasoline prices, but to pressure the company into changing its stance on global warming. According to an AP report, the former wife of that fine, upstanding Rolling Stone joined environmental activists, including Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop chain, in launching the protest campaign. “This is a way to tell Esso that it’s not right for them to be claiming that there is no connection between [CO.sub.2] emissions and climate change,” Jagger said in London.

Esso says the 1997 Kyoto agreement on global warming, from which the United States has withdrawn, is flawed, and would impose significant economic costs in the developed world without reducing emissions. The company, which reportedly contributed more than $1 million toward President Bush’s election campaign, says it’s working on long-term means of fighting climate change, including cleaner fuel technology and energy-efficiency projects.

Here’s a better idea. We ran across a more appropriate alternative for both Ms. Jagger and our e-mail buddy. They, and all their friends, should purchase and drive the Southeast Asian SUV below. They could cut gasoline consumption, reduce [CO.sub.2] emissions and generate fertilizer for organic gardening–all at the same time.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gulf Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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