action: great gas-out

colist-admin at colist-admin at
Tue Apr 4 22:27:53 CDT 2000

[ed:  thanks to Steven, Dave, and James, for their discussion of the great 
gas out.]

From: "Steven Shapiro" <sms1 at>

I have been receiving the gas-out call to action on a regular basis for the 
past month or so and have developed a message I send to whomever forwards 
it to me.  It is attached below.

On a side note, I think it may be worth discussing the use of the Internet 
as an organizing, political change and advocacy tool (I believe that this 
topic came up last time the gas-out was suggested).  In my opinion, the 
Internet has not yet come into its own as an effective tool for bringing 
about social or political change.  I say this for the following reasons:

1.  Technology divide.  Computers/Internet access have yet to overcome the 
economic barriers to allow for self-advocacy among many groups of oppressed 

2.  Information Overload.  There is a lot of useless and/or incorrect 
information floating about.  I have not seen a truly effective means of 
sorting through the garbage other than a healthy dose of cynicism and a 
quick finger on the delete key.

3.  Ease of Action.  I wonder if perhaps it is too easy to forward a 
message to one's entire address book.  I honestly believe that if people 
sat down and thought for a couple minutes about the things they forward, 
number 2 would be less of a problem.  While it is most certainly more 
difficult to gather a group of people to discuss an issue you feel is 
important, doing so is also a more healthy process.

That said, I think that the ability for the rest of the world to follow the 
recent WTO situation highlights one of the more positive uses of the 
Internet for coordinated civil action.  Comments?


The idea behind the "gas out" is flawed for several reasons outlined below. 
Please read this message and reconsider your approach to dealing with 
rising gasoline prices.

1. People who fill up their tanks before the gas out in order to prepare 
for the "strike" are purchasing the same amount of gas at the high prices, 
just on a different day. Were this type of action to actually influence 
prices via the supply/demand curve, than massive numbers of people 
purchasing gas prior to the gas out would cause prices to rise by 
increasing the demand.

2. Similarly, even if prices were to fall during the three day action, 
people holding off and purchasing gas after the gas out would cause a spike 
in demand, leading to increased prices once again.

3. That said, the supply/demand relationship is multidimensional. There are 
many additional factors that influence the price of gasoline (political, 
social, environmental and economic). These factors will continue to 
influence the price of gasoline long after the gas out is forgotten.

4. Even with the rise in price, people in the United States pay 
significantly less for gasoline than residents of almost every other 
country in the world. Some people believe that in fact, individual drivers 
actually pay less than the "full cost" of driving their cars. Either way, 
it is important for us to recognize the external costs of driving such as 
road maintenance, pollution, noise and materials, as well as the social 
implications of long commutes to work.

What if we consider ways of decreasing consumption rather than decreasing 
prices. Rather than purchasing the same amount of gas on different days as 
the gas out suggests, try carpooling with someone to school or work for 
those three days and truly decreasing demand for gasoline. Consider taking 
public transportation, walking, or riding a bike when feasable rather than 
driving an individual car. Looking for ways to minimize our overall 
consumption of gasoline will ALSO minimize the amount we spend.



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Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 02:29:10 EDT
Subject: Re: action:  great gas-out
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Allison, Randy, and other COMM-ORGans,

A gas-out or any other similar type of boycott will do nothing to reduce
energy or fuel consumption or pollution (although I've never heard that as a
stated goal). This would only happen if people stopped DRIVING their cars
between April 7-9. As it is, people will simply fuel up before or after, keep
driving, buy the same amount of gas, and spend the same amount of money.

I never heard that last year's Gas-Out "worked." And it's probably because it
didn't. Any billion-dollar industry isn't going to even blink over a small
blip on their spending pattern flow charts. Even if last year's event
happened to coincide with a slight reduction in gas prices a few days later,
the petroleum industry obviously didn't learn any kind of lesson from it, as
evidenced by even higher gas prices/lower production this year.

I think people should take all of the energy they spend on "gas-outs" and use
it for something that actually has a chance of changing something, like
writing a letter to a legislator, circulating a petition, attending a
demonstration, or testifying at a hearing. Or better yet, getting on a bus or
riding a bike.

Dave Chelsea-Seifert


From: "James Whelan" <James.Whelan at>

any other thoughts? Sure!
I've cut and paste an email from a regional conservationist.
The text relates the issue to our region, but the message is international.
Few environmentalists support the idea of a short-term fuel boycott.
Suggest a long-term boycott perhaps.

Between April 6-8 2000, many Australians plan to
boycott fuel, avoiding the bowser in order to bring
the price down. This campaign [Gas Out!] started as an
urban myth on a U.S. website years ago and has taken
on a life of its own recently thanks to Australia’sactive internet
Many environmentalists are not supporting the boycott,
arguing fuels should be more expensive to  reflect
actual social and environmental costs. In Brisbane,
motorists would be up for an extra $600 each year just
to offset health effects of vehicle exhaust ($450M)
and serious road accidents at intersections ($290M).
Then add the cost of lost bushland and parks (like
Victoria Park where the new freeway is being built)
noise pollution 
 right through to the costs of
maintaining international military control in
oil-producing countries. Maybe petrol should be $3 a
litre – then more people might ride, walk or take atrain.
Environmentalists can join the Gas Out! campaign by
helping Queensland adopt fuel quality laws that
minimise environmental impacts. Don't work to bring
down the price of fuel (so everyone uses more). Use
your consumer power to pressure Caltex and demandcleaner fuel for all.
Fuels sold in one Australian state may be quite
different from fuels sold in other state. Likewise,
Australian fuels differ markedly from those sold inother countries.
Clean or less environmentally harmful fuels typically
have very low sulphur levels to reduce particulate
emissions (small particles that can kill) and little
or no lead (that impairs intellectual development).
While new Australian regulations for fuel quality are
being considered (slowly, slowly), the state of
Queensland is set to implement new regulations. These
laws will bring acceptable sulphur levels down from
the current national standard of 5000 parts per
million (ppm) to 500ppm and remove lead altogether.Sounds good?
Maybe not, when you realise both Brisbane refineries
(BP and Caltex) already turn out diesel fuel that has
lower sulphur content than 500ppm. After a major
refit, BP is set to produce diesel with just 50ppm.
Caltex also pumps out diesel with about 350ppm
sulphur. The new US standard is 30ppm and
internationally the trend is toward zero sulphurcontent.
So why will Queensland regulate to 500ppm? Apparently
Caltex don’t want a more stringent standard. They
presently truck diesel to Queensland from their
Kurnell refinery in NSW. While their Brisbane refinery
produces relatively clean diesel, fuel from Kurnell
has a much higher sulphur content.But that’s not all. While removing lead
Queensland fuel sounds a great idea, the proposed
replacement additive MTBE is a potential carcinogen
that contaminates groundwater and was just banned
absolutely in the U.S. where it contaminated drinking
water across the nation. (see Oil companies
love to sell MTBE as an additive and make about $3B a
year from sales in the States. Ethanol can be used
instead, providing a boost to farmers.
In Western Australia, state regulations banned MTBE in
fuel from January 1st this year. The proposed
regulation for Queensland will allow up to 1% MTBE in
fuel (by volume). We are about to introduce an
additive that’s just been banned in the United Statesand W.A.
In some places, the law says "three strikes and you'reout!"
Caltex has had their three strikes: (1) selling diesel
with a much higher sulphur content than other
refineries - ten times higher than BP (2) delaying the
Qld state government's plans to bring in reduced
vapour pressure 'summer fuel' to reduce smog and (3)
lobbying for MTBE to be permissible under Qld law.WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The people drafting these new laws need to hear thatit’s just not on.
* Let them know you expect the world’s cleanest fuels
– not dirty diesel and toxic MTBE.
* Urge the environment Minister to go for 50ppmsulphur diesel and ban MTBE.
* Tell Caltex to stop pressuring the Queensland StateGovernment .
* Pass this email on to your friends.CONTACT
* Qld Environment Minister Hon Rod Welfordenvironment at
* Caltex Refineries (Qld) Ltd jfisher at
* Caltex refinery at Lytton rapresl at /
ph.1800 675 487 (environmental hotline)
* For Caltex greenwash, visit
A short email or phone call will be more effective
than you can imagine. Do it now!
AND – try a personal fuel boycott. Not just April 6-8but all year. Ride to

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