It's hard to get pumped about gas boycott

May 14, 2007|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

I got that breathless e-mail, too, the one with the junior-varsity Cesar Chavez prose that's been popping up in in-boxes all over the country, saying not to buy gas tomorrow so we could stick it to Big Oil, and make those crooks take a big one-day hit for gouging us at the pumps.

This was supposed to send a message to the oil company profiteers that we motorists are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Instead, what a one-day gas boycott really tells Big Oil is: Hey, we're not real bright.

Think about it: If you don't buy gas tomorrow, but run out today and fill your car's gas tank, how does that hurt the oil companies?

Or if you don't buy gas tomorrow, but wait until Wednesday to pump 60 bucks worth of premium into that rolling condominium that is your SUV, is this going to make the oil big-shots quake?

Nope, gas boycotts have been tried before -- and they didn't work.

People need gas in their cars to live their lives. You might as well boycott oxygen.

Sure, if everyone stopped buying gas for weeks, that might bring gas prices down.

But then we wouldn't be able to leave our houses and we'd all lose our jobs and the economy would collapse and there would be starvation and rioting and misery, and eventually the unthinkable: no more American Idol.

When you think of it like that, $2.98 for a gallon of regular unleaded doesn't sound so bad.

The other thing is this: Do you hear a lot of grumbling about high gas prices?

Enough to spur a national boycott?

Because I sure don't.

Oh, every once in a while I'll pull into a gas station and the guy at the next pump will start in about how much it costs to fill up.

Or I'll hear one of the wild-eyed ranters on the cable talk shows go off on the subject.

But mostly Americans have grown numb to soaring gas prices.

That's because we've been told over and over that just about everything causes gas prices to go up.

Hurricanes cause gas prices to go up.

Unrest in the Middle East causes gas prices to go up.

So does rest in the Middle East.

Investor jitters on Wall Street, rebel activity in Venezuela, environmental disasters in the Bering Sea, solar flares, a love-sick elk straying too close to the Alaska pipeline -- everything seems to cause gas prices to spike.

At least, that's what we're told by the oil companies.

But of course no one really believes this propaganda.

Instead we think: They're gouging us.

We think: They're all in cahoots. They might as well be holding guns to our heads with these prices.

The fact is, the only way to bring gas prices down is to reduce demand.

And the best way to do that is to -- here we go again -- drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

But a lot of Americans don't want smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.

They're hooked on their big gas-guzzlers.

They want to roll down the highway in their big, roomy SUVs, so that each member of the family has his or her own Barcalounger-like seating and is cocooned via iPod, DVD player or rear-console TV and does not have to actually talk or interact with anyone else.

It's tougher to do that in, for instance, those little hybrids like a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight.

Sure, the little car gets 50-plus miles to the gallon and is better for the environment, easier on your wallet and blah, blah, blah.

But if three people sit in the back of it, there may be instances where their arms and legs might actually touch the arms and legs of the people sitting beside them, which of course will not do.

Another thing that might happen to passengers sitting in such close proximity is that conversation might break out.

Yes, pretty soon one person is talking to another, and then a third and fourth person, maybe even the driver, might join in.

And this won't do, either, as it breaks the cone of sullen silence that many of us prefer to drive in.

Plus that much social interaction might have other benefits, too. Maybe drivers would be more civil to each other on the highways. Maybe it would help cut down on all the instances of road rage.

But, hey, there's no point thinking about that right now.

Maybe when gas sells for five bucks a gallon...

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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