Hoaxes & Rumors

The “Don’t Buy Gas” Boycott

The “Don’t Buy Gas” Boycott

For years we’ve seen emails and graphics suggesting that consumers don’t buy gas on a certain date. We are seeing it again this year, as some are urging people to avoid buying gas on April 15 in order to force oil companies to lower prices. Today we’ll take a look at this issue a little further.

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Gas Boycott?

First, let’s take a look at the 2013 version of the proposed boycott:

Don’t pump gas on April 15, 2013

Keep sending this. Let’s all try this, wonderful if it helps.

We’ll do it! If running now, just get your gas the day before on April 14, or the day after on April 16. Every little bit helps.

In April 1997, there was a “gas out” conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

On April 15th 2011, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $1.20 a liter/$3.87 in most places.

If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,000.00 (that’s almost 3 BILLION) out of the oil companies pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on April 15th and let’s try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

Won’t Affect Demand

The problem with a “boycott” such as this is that consumers aren’t actually changing demand, which means prices will not be affected. Even if everyone avoided filling up on April 15, 2013, it stands to reason that everyone would fill up at some point in the days just before or just after this date, creating the same average consumption as usual. A true boycott would require abstaining from the use of a product or a particular company. Neither is suggested by such proposed “gas outs.”

gas boycott

Here is the 2013 gas boycott graphic spotted on Facebook. It appears to have been borrowed from a 2011 version.

The graphic

It should be noted that this graphic appears to have been circulated in 2011. It seems as though someone changed the headline to read 2013, but forgot to change the other reference to 2011. The average price listed in the graphic of $3.87 is about what the price of gas was in April of 2011. The current average price of gas is about 20 cents lower than that, as of March 10, 2013.

1997 Gas Out?

This graphic and similar emails claim there was a gas out that worked in 1997. We could find no record of this. The first well-publicized internet-driven gas out occurred on April 30, 1999.

The 1999 Gas Out

In 1999, a similar high-profile gas boycott email campaign garnered significant media attention. The “gas out” resulted in “virtually no impact” on the 8000 Chevron stations across the country. Some gas stations noticed a drop in business on that day, but gas prices remained unchanged throughout that year’s gas-out. At the time of the 1999 gas out, the average price for a gallon of regular gas was $1.17.

$3 Billion per Day?

The gas out graphic suggests that  a day’s supply of gasoline equals nearly $3 billion.  In 2011, the US consumed about 367.08 million gallons of gasoline per day.  If we multiple this by the average cost of a gallon of gas ($3.67 as of March 10, 2013), we come up with $1,347,183,600, which is about half of what is claimed.

Hurts Station Owners

Gas station owners don’t make big money on the sale of gasoline – oil companies do. The station owners rely mostly on the sale of items in their convenience stores to make the bulk of their profits. It has been suggested that such “gas outs” may harm the small owners. As a Chevron owner, Ross Relles, stated during the 1999 gas out, “Whoever is promoting this idiotic day, all it’s hurting is the small retailers like me.”

Bottom Line

These gas outs do not affect demand, and thus do not affect price or supply by the oil companies.

1999 Source
Lite, Jordan. “Drivers Boycott the Gas Pump”
Daily News. May 2, 1999. (p. D22)

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