It was perhaps too harsh, an ad which ran shortly after the 9/11 attacks; I don't know who sponsored the ad, but it basically said that buying gasoline was the direct equivalent of supporting terrorism. The backlash was huge, the ad got pulled - but dammit, it had a point. We have to buy gas - unless you live in Chicago or New York City or a few other cities where public transportation can be a viable alternative to driving, you must use a car to get to and from work, to do so many things that have become a part of our daily lives. And the gas, of course, comes from the Middle East. Or... does it?
There's been an email going around, also as a bulletin on MySpace and other social networking sites, and other blogs have posted it as well. It claims to be from a petroleum-industry insider who's "fed up" with high gas prices and sits down to share some tips to save money at the pump. Sounds too good to be true... well, it is. It's chock full of lies. What's true and what's not I don't know, but when it said who buys their gas from the Middle East and who does not, I found an error. I can't remember exactly what it was, but it prompted me to head over to the Department of Energy's website. That site is a bloody mess, but after about 30 minutes of research, I found the list the email promised I'd find: A list of all the major oil companies, and how much (if any) oil they buy from the Middle East. That proved the email a hoax, because many gas companies (like Hess - what we call "Trade Mart" here in the South) were listed in the email as not buying gas from the Middle East, while the Department of Energy clearly states that they do.
There are two gas companies around here which, according to the Department of Energy, do not buy any gas from the Middle East: Shell and BP. So, as of a month or so ago, I decided to buy my gas exclusively from Shell and BP whenever possible. (When you're on the road, sometimes your choices are limited.) I've found that there are Shell stations right on my way to and from work.
Now, whether buying gas from the Middle East constitutes supporting terrorism is highly debatable - and I'm certainly not saying that everyone who does get their gas from a station that buys from the Middle East is supporting terrorism, I'm just saying that I'm now sure that I'm not supporting terrorism. I spend about $200 a month on gas, that's about $2400 a year, and I've decided to take that $2400 away from the Middle East and give it to, well, I don't know who, I just know it's not who we're currently at war with. It might be a country that doesn't like the US much, whatever, but it's not from a region in which American troops are being killed or injured on a daily basis.
Some would argue that most of the Middle East gas comes from Saudi Arabia, and that the Saudis are our friends. They may be on good terms with us, but just last week President Bush went to the Saudi king and told him how gas prices are hurting the American people, and asked if he could please take action to get the prices lowered. The Saudi king politely told Bush "no". Again, I'm not entirely sure and I'm not saying that the Saudis are supporting terrorism - I don't know nearly enough about the region and its politics to make that kind of call. (And for the record, I harbour no ill will towards Arabs, living here or over there - unless, of course, they're fighting American troops.) I'm just making a safety call and buying gas elsewhere.
And some would argue that the high gas prices are not a result of the Gulf War II aka the War on Terror, but look - gas was under $1 a gallon before 9/11. I can understand inflation - $2 a gallon is fair, I suppose. But nearly $4 is ridiculous, and anyone saying the prices more than doubling in the last 12-24 months is not a result of our country's actions overseas is overlooking something. I know there's a lot about the fuel industry I don't know, but I know gas prices have doubled as the War on Terror has (more or less) turned in our favour. Call it coincidence - I sure don't.
I don't urge my readers to buy from Shell. That would put me in the same boat as the con artist who wrote the email forward. Rather, I urge you to hit up the Department of Energy's website and find that list yourself, and make a list of gas stations who don't buy from the Middle East, and then strike out gas stations which aren't in your area, and then only buy from those gas stations. In World War II, women back home (this was, of course, before women were allowed to serve in the Armed Forces) supported the war effort by, among other things, taking up their husbands', brothers', and fathers' jobs back home, kept the economy going. Nowadays, those of us (of either gender) who aren't serving in the Armed Forces can support the war effort, by buying gas that doesn't come from the Middle East.