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03/18/2004: "grassroots and gas prices"

Someone at work just spammed the whole company with a "grassroots impact on gas prices" message. Sigh. While it's not entirely a bad idea, it's still not a good one.

This is the forwarded message as I received it:

Subject: Gasoline Prices - PLEASE READ & FORWARD to Impact gas prices.

Let's have some Grass Roots control over gas prices... I hear we are going to hit close to $1.00 a litre by the summer. Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action.

Phillip Hollsworth, offered this good idea: This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the "don't buy gas on a certain day" campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that because they knew we wouldn't continue to "hurt" ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read it and join with us!

By now you're probably thinking gasoline priced at about 69.9 cents a litre is super cheap. Me too! It is currently 76.9 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a Litre of gas is CHEAP at 69.9, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace....not sellers.

With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing THEIR gas! And we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves.

How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war.

Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON"T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are PETRO CANADA & SHELL). If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. To have an impact we need to reach literally millions of Shell and Petro Canada gas buyers. It's really simple to do!! Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!

I am sending this note to about thirty people. If each of you sends it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300)... and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000). and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth generation of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers! If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it,..... THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!

Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That's all. How long would all that take? If each of us sends this email out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!! I'll bet you didn't think you and I had that much potential, did you.

Acting together we can make a difference. If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. PLEASE HOLD OUT UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS CAN REALLY WORK. YOU KNOW THEY (Petro Canada, Shell) LOVE HOLIDAYS AND SUMMER TRAVELLERS.


This was my response:

Hello all,

While I agree that gas prices are high, the $1.00/L scare has been around for years. I specifically remember reading a newspaper article about such a possibility in the spring of 2002.

Grassroots action, unless extremely wide and far-reaching, will not bring gas prices down. Targeting specific brands will not work either, as companies sell gas to each other - instead of forcing either of these companies to bring the price down, they will simply sell to other retailers that are getting increased business due to this grassroots boycott.

I found the following article on gas prices in Canada very illuminating:

When you compare our gas prices to those in Europe, or South America, or anywhere else in the world but the USA, we have extremely cheap gas. We shouldn't be complaining about it.

What we SHOULD be doing is reducing our dependency on petroleum products. There are two practical ways you can do this right now:

1) Carpool. I use an online tool at to register and find a ride. If more people did this, we could leave our cars in the driveway, or do as I have and eliminate one car altogether from our ownership.

2) Use an alternatively-fuelled diesel. Two options are biodiesel or biodiesel blends ( or using Straight or Waste Vegetable Oil ( Both are renewable resources that recycle waste oil that would otherwise be disposed of, and contribute zero net carbon to our atmosphere.

While it's nice to demonize the petroleum industry, the true culprit is our thirst for fuel and willingness to drive long distances. Please consider carpooling or using a renewable fuel source instead of complaining about globally cheap gas.

Furthermore, his math is way off. Does he really expect 30 people to pass it along to 10 friends, and those 10 to 10 more, and so on? Won't happen. If you think about it, the population of Canada and the US together is probably just around 400 million people. I can guarantee you that of those 400 million, way less than 75% have e-mail, and even less than that actually buy gas. Don't get all heady about getting the purchasing power of 300 million people behind this "grassroots" movement, because you'll be lucky to get 30,000.

Replies: 1 Comment

on Friday, March 19th, mr.ska said

Follow up: Thus far I've received 6 responses in total to my reply. Five of those were automated "out-of-office" messages, with the 6th being a reprimand from the head of human resources for wasting "your valuable time and resources of our internet system".

Sigh. This is the kind of corporate culture I get to put up with. I'll be (happily) surprised if ANYONE responds to me personally. All I can hope is that at least a few people sign up for

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