Most myths surrounding gas stations are about fires, explosions and how to bring down the cost of gas. These myths typically grow in stature to become urban legends or the myth propagates into some big conspiracy theory when gas prices go up or a terrorist act is perpetrated such as an explosion. Perhaps you have heard, for example, that staging a one- day “gas out” will bring down the retail price of gas. This is a typical urban legend that always gains popularity when gas prices are rising higher and higher. This article will examine some of the most common gas station myths and provide you with the facts.Refusing to Purchase Gas from Some of the Largest Brands
Gas wars are not new. Rumors of high gas prices generate strategies from those that try to take what they believe is an intelligent stance against big petroleum companies to bring down prices at the pumps. They start campaigns to encourage everyone to stop buying gas from the top petroleum companies for a specific period of time-usually months or even a year in the hopes that if the big boys are not selling any gas it will force them to drop prices which in turn will force smaller companies to follow suit. Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Here are the facts that make this approach completely useless as a way to control prices at the pumps.
- The most basic principle of supply and demand lies at the root of gasoline pricing. Prices go up when people buy more of a product and down when people buy less of a product
- Staging a boycott of specific brands does not cause an overall lower price per gallon. Because of the supply and demand principle prices would actually increase at all the smaller gas stations not being boycotted because the supply of gasoline would be more limited and the demand for gas from other providers would increase. In the end, the original price of the gasoline by the big producers ends up looking cheaper by comparison.
Best Solution: The only way to help bring down gas prices is to reduce demand and to buy less gasoline overall. Less demand means less imported oil. When the oil cartels begin to feel the pain, then the price of oil drops and consequently the cost of gasoline. You cannot simply shift where you purchase gasoline and expect prices to fall.
You have probably read the ads asking for everyone to stop buying gas for a day in order to reduce the cost of gas. The typical argument sounds something like this: “If everyone in the US did not buy any gasoline for a period of 24 hours (at the same time) analysts calculate that the oil industry would be overwhelmed by their oil stockpiles and suffer a net loss of over 4.6 billion dollars which would affect their bottom lines.”
Let us look at this approach in a little more detail. If you do not buy gasoline for a single day the only one to suffer is the small gasoline station owner-certainly not the big guys. If you are boycotting something you are doing without it and not using it. A gas out is not a sustained boycott. This approach, like the boycotting approach, simply shifts the purchase of gasoline to another point in time. The same principles apply to gas outs as to boycotts. Supply and demand is the key to long-term price reductions. Only a sustained drop in demand will push prices lower.
Selective Buying Can Help Cut Off Terrorist Funding
There is another popular myth that if you do not purchase gas from oil companies that import oil from the middle east it will provide middle eastern oil producing nations that engage in terrorist activities with less funding.
Terrorist financing is big business. The FBI has en entire section devoted to tracking and shutting down terrorist financing activities. It is a highly complex problem with no simple solutions. Here are a few facts about oil and terrorist financing:
- Canada remains the single largest oil importer to the US followed by Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela and then Iraq.
- Oil companies sell gasoline through many different outlets apart from their branded stations. You cannot be sure you are buying oil from a specific country or provider because of this fact.
- It is nearly impossible to say where the crude was extracted from by the time it gets to a gasoline pump. Oil companies source their oil from a variety of locations.
- Again, any real impact must come from an overall reduction in gasoline demand rather than simply trying to shift where we purchase gasoline.
Cell Phones Cause Gas Station Explosions
Have you read headlines proclaiming that someone got burned or injured while talking on a cell phone and pumping gasoline because their cell phone ignited an explosion of gas fumes? This is another common myth that gets passed around, but there is no evidence to support this theory.
- Since cell phone batteries have the same 12 volt DC power as automobile batteries, but deliver less current it is highly unlikely a cell phone could ignite gasoline fumes.
- Cell phone ringers do not produce any electricity-they simply reproduce audio frequencies that simulate a telephone ringing.
- According to American Petroleum Institute research “We can find no evidence of someone using a cell phone causing any kind of accident, no matter how small, at a gas station anywhere in the world.”
- The cellular Telecommunications Industry Association says “There is no evidence whatsoever that a wireless phone has ever caused ignition or explosion at a station anywhere in the world. Wireless phones do not cause gas stations to blow up.”
- In experiments on the Discovery Channel’s Mythbuster program during the 2004 season they tried to ignite a fire and explosion using a cell phone but failed in all attempts. So, no such event could even be experimentally proven.
People Are Placing Infected Needles Under Gas Pump Handles
This hoax started appearing back in 2000 as part of other AIDS-infected needle scare stories. In March of 2013 variants of this original hoax also began appearing saying that razor blades instead of infected Needles were being attached to gas pump handles. The original needle scare appeared on the internet sent by someone proclaiming to be Captain Abraham sands of the Jacksonville, Florida Police Department.
- The name Abraham Sands was completely made up to make the email warning look more authoritative.
- There is no Abraham Sands with the Jacksonville Police Department or the Jacksonville Sheriff’s department
- Jacksonville is served by a Sheriff’s Department and not a Police Department.
- No newspaper articles appeared about this “warning”
- The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Department responded to over a 1,000 inquiries from concerned citizens around the country who were trying to confirm this warning and the department responded that it was a dangerous prank
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention report no cases of AIDS from needle stick injuries to anyone outside the health care field
It is always wise to investigate and research possible pranks and hoaxes you see posted online or read in emails. If there is a serious situation going on your best source of information are TV news stations, local and national newspapers. Journalists research the information to verify if it is a valid report or simply a myth or prank.