Matthew Shepherd got one of those "Gas strike" emails and wrote back:
Beating the Dead Gas Strike Horse
I just had this massive … I wouldn’t call it an argument, but a vigorous debate … with an old friend a couple of months ago on this subject. I love the sentiment – I’m obviously no pal of Big Oil – but I can’t stand it when people who drive cars go through these freak-outs and think that if we don’t buy gas for one day, suddenly the oil companies will all go OH MY GOD and learn the error of their ways.
Not gonna happen.
"Gas strikes" don’t do anything. Really. I actually suspect that they’re started by gas companies to give well-meaning consumers the feeling they’re "taking action" – a big placebo to keep people from actually doing what would REALLY solve gas price problems:
I don’t own a car. I take great pride in not owning a car. I’d go as far as to say that not owning a car is now part of Who I Am, and while it’s not easy sometimes, by God, it’s satisfying.
Honestly, the gas companies don’t make their money off you and your Echo. They make their money off the transport industry; they make their money off two-car families where Mom and Dad can’t get their shit together enough to actually SHARE a car, they make their money off people that drive 5 km to work every day instead of riding a bike or taking the bus. The "gas strike" won’t do squat. Because the day after the "gas strike" people will get BACK in their cars, smug with the satisfaction that they’ve stuck it to The Man, and they’ll go buy gas.
You can’t control the gas companies.
You CAN control yourselves.
Don’t "gas strike." De-gas your lifestyle. Sell your SUV and get a smart car or a hybrid. Hell, sell your smart car and hybrid and buy a kick-ass bike and a bus pass. Get up earlier so you can drive your spouse to work and the kids to school. Tell Junior that he can danged well bike to soccer practice, or form a pick-up league in the neighbourhood, because you’re not driving him 10 km just to kick a ball around for an hour and a half. Rent a movie instead of driving to the theatre. Head over to your neighbour’s place for a card game instead of driving 50 km to see friends three towns over.
Get a CommunAuto membership.
Go for walks.
Spend more money in local shops (and walk there) instead of spending your time and your gas to drive all the way to the mall. You’d be surprised at how much you’re spending to get to where you "save" money.
Join a cycling lobby group and push City Hall to install safe, dedicated bike lanes for alternative transportation.
The "gas strike" is a sham. You might as well walk up to a gas pump and give it the finger. You might feel satisfied having vented your frustration, but what good have you done? None, really. The oil companies have plenty of storage space, and plenty of time. If you don’t change how you LIVE, you’re just going to buy that gas tomorrow or the day after, and your "gas strike" will amount to nothing.
So if you have what it takes to go a day without buying gas, maybe it’s time to think about taking the next step, digging deep and seeing if you have the dedication to make a REAL change. To go a LIFE without buying gas.
If half the people in North America don’t buy gas for one day, jack shit will happen.
If half the people in North America start buying half as much gas for the REST OF THEIR LIVES, things are going to change big time, and in a good way.
Sorry about the rant. It’s just … good effort wasted, you know? Let’s start focusing less on the Grand Gesture protests, and let’s start focusing more on those quiet, relentless, little things we can do every day that make the world a little bit better, one drop of unbought gasoline at a time.
Your mileage may, quite literally, vary. Some people have more genuine need for their cars than others. I’d personally draw the line at abandoning my friends just because they live far away, but with the train and my folding bike I can get just about anywhere so the point is moot. But the key argument is correct. You don’t want to be price-gouged? Then don’t buy. Find alternatives. Long-term, the only way that gas price is going to go is up, because the current price doesn’t come anywhere near factoring the cost of "pressure-cook raw materials for a couple hundred million years".
(Emphasis in quoted material mine. Filed under politics because anything to do with oil and energy is political and makes people twitch.)