As the price of gas continues to climb, there is the inevitable chatter in the office, among friends, and via chain e-mails, that perhaps it’s time we organize boycotts of certain gas station brands – or stop buying petroleum at all – at least for a day. Unfortunately, such a boycott would be useless.
So much for the “great American gas boycott”.
Buy why would a gas boycott be a futile effort?
There are two reasons. While gasoline producers like Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Shell are enjoying record profits, they are not the reason we’re facing record prices at the pumps. The forces driving our gas prices range from increased consumption in developing countries like China and India, to the prices set by OPEC, to commodity traders speculating on the price of oil futures. Even if every American stopped filling up for a day – or a week, we could do little to impact all these factors.
Secondly, even if millions of Americans boycotted gas (which is highly unlikely), we would only be postponing our purchase of gasoline, not eliminating it altogether. We still need that gas to get to work, and we’re going to buy it eventually, whether it’s today or tomorrow. A boycott works when it targets a particular company and when there are alternatives available. If enough people cease buying brand X and buy brand Y instead, the producer of brand X will feel the pinch. Unfortunately, we can’t all switch over to solar cars overnight!
The good news is that as the price of gas goes up, we make changes in our driving habits and use less oil (whether we like it or not). As that trend continues, the drop in demand for gasoline should ease escalating prices, at least for a while.
However you slice it, the age of cheap oil is over, and it’s high time we start seeking alternatives to burning gasoline as we motor around the country — both personally, and as a nation.