Boycott gas stations to protest rising fuel prices?-Grass Roots Effort & Fiction!

Boycott Oil Companies for One Day and Lower Gas PricesGrass Roots Effort! & Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

The email says that it’s been calculated that if everyone in the United States would avoid buying gasoline for just one day, the oil companies would “choke” on their stockpiles.  It encourages a boycott of oil companies to protest high gas prices.  The latest version called for a boycott on May 15, 2007.  Some versions reference similar campaigns that allegedly took place in other years, such as 1997 and 1999 or “last year.”

The Truth:

This eRumor in various forms has popped up every few months for several years, especially in the Spring.

The email has not been effective, however, and was not in when tried before.

There has not ever been a grass-roots effort like this that has ever had an impact on the oil and gas industry or on gas prices.

John Ballard, vice president of retail marketing for Holland Oil, which owns 55 Northeast Ohio stations told the Akron Beacon Journal it was kind of an average day after the call for a protest on May 19, 2004.  The Orange County Register in California did a survey of gas stations at the same time and did not find any that noticed a drop in sales.  One station owner said he’d never seen a boycott have any impact.  It was the same in Alabama, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and many other states.

The experts say there are several reasons that the boycotts don’t work.

First, it was a grass-roots effort originated by someone who apparently thought it would be a nifty idea but did not have the muscle to accomplish the goal of a national boycott.  In other words, it wouldn’t have recruited enough people.

Second, it was based on a flawed assumption.  The eRumor said, “It has been calculated that if everyone in the United States did not purchase a drop of gasoline for one day…the oil companies would choke on their stockpiles.”  No such calculation was been announced that we can find.  It was apparently the fabrication of whoever originated the email.

We’ve talked with representatives of the oil industry who say that a one-day boycott of gas stations would not really accomplish much because those who decided not to buy gas on that day would still presumably need gas within several days.  The sales for a given week or month would probably end up being the same.

University of Michigan economics professor Stephen Salant told Detroit Free Press columnist Matt Helms that it was hard to think of anything less effective than the suggested one-day boycott.

Also, the American Petroleum Institute in Washington, D.C., said that oil inventories were on the low side for that  time of year in 2004, so there were no stockpiles to choke.

Most of the boycott emails focused on trying to influence the Middle East, but the American Petroleum Institute says that two of the largest suppliers of crude oil to the United States are our neighbors Canada and Mexico.

Updated 5/1/07