There's an article making its way around Facebook right now that calls for a gas boycott on April 15, 2011. If you haven't seen it yet, hold on. You will. Because everyone thinks this is such a good idea. Let's all of us just drive right on past the gas station that day. That'll show those darn oil companies that we mean business. They'll have to lower gas prices … or else!
I applaud the effort, really, I do. But there are two big problems with a gas out: participation and long-term effects.
One of the emails going around suggests that we use a chain letter approach to notify friends and relatives of the proposed gasoline boycott. According to the math, if we all notified 35 people, via email, then within eight days there would be something like 300 million people participating in this gas out.
Sorry. But notifying 300 million people and expecting that all 300 million will participate – no matter what the event – is unrealistic. At most, one percent of those 300 million will participate. That means 3 million people out of the 310 million that populate the United States. To put it in even simpler terms, if everyone who didn't participate bought $1 worth of gasoline that day, the gasoline companies would collect $299 million instead of $300 million. Not really a very big dent at all, is it?
Gas-out vs. Boycott
How much difference is it really going to make if everyone drives on by the gas station on April 15? Not much at all. Because most people are going to buy extra gas on April 14 or 16. What would make more of a dent is to boycott the oil companies, which means to refuse to buy their product, period.
Other than to go to work and back home again, I only leave my house one or two days a week. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a recluse, by any means. I just do all of my errands, shopping, and even most of my entertainment either on the way to work or on the way home. And I plan my route accordingly before I get in the car.