Forget Lobbyists, Now Energy Policy Guided By Viral Email

from the send-this-to-five-people-you-know dept

Last week, one of those viral emails got passed around, which claimed to offer an ingenious way for consumers to force the price of gasoline down. To summarize, it called upon consumers to boycott just one chain of gas stations (Exxon), thus forcing them to lower their prices to get their customers back (There are several problems wrong with this plan, which people can probably figure out). The email specifically demanded that drivers not buy from Exxon until they lower prices to $1.30. Now, a judge in Texas is pushing a resolution, encouraging consumers to take action to reduce the price of gasoline. You guessed it; he wants to boycott Exxon until they reduce their prices to, yes, $1.30. There are lots of examples of misguided government policy; pressure from lobbying groups and simple foolishness are among the chief causes. This may be one of the only examples of policy almost certainly attributable to viral email.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Yeppers, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 2:40pm

    First post again!

     

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  2.  
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    R3v3n63 0f D@ F1$h, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 3:16pm

    Re:

    don't be stupid

     

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  3.  
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    Republican Gun, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 3:29pm

    The problem with boycotts...

    is that no one will either care, remember or continue with the boycott for more than a day or two. Let's face it, the world is changing. In five years I will be driving my electric car around town and flying my Sky Car on rich octane fuel for longer trips while the poor people of the world( china and india) will be using cars of the 20th century.

     

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  4.  
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    techDirtReader, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 3:51pm

    Big name needed

    Ideally you would need a big name pushing the bigcott. Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, etc.

     

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  5.  
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    MO, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 3:55pm

    Re: The problem with boycotts...

    I wouldn't say China and India are going to be the most advanced countries in the next decade, but surely they won't be described as "poor" no more. It is a stereotype to think that China and India are poor, but in fact with such exponentially increasing number of investors rushing into China and India, there are more and more rich Chinese and Indian. Yes, maybe in the next decade only 5 to 10% of Chinese and Indian people fit into the "rich" catagory (a general definition of being rich is probably having income or total assets over certain amount of money), but with their population, 5% of total current China population is already dozen million people; India also has huge population, too. Who are you kidding to be poor?

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 4:04pm

    dillweed....

    Only the first post WITH CONTENT counts as the first post...

     

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  7.  
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    JPW, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 4:32pm

    Snopes

    I guess y'all are calling five year- old, Snopes-debunked hoax email "viral" now, huh? Way kewl.

     

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  8.  
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    Kevin, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 5:16pm

    China and India

    I don't know exactly what you're trying to say with that post MO but you're way off. The reason that China and India are growing so rapidly is because they are so capital poor to begin with. When a country is starting to go from poor to less poor the first stages of growth come rapidly and easily. As the country comes closer to its optimal level of capital and income the margin of improvement over time becomes smaller and smaller. Think about it as a sort of learning curve: when you're studying a subject its easy to learn a great deal of things and get a C in the class but it takes substantially more effort to get an B and an incredible amount more to learn every single thing the class teaches. China and India are on their way from a D- to a C, but soon their efforts to grow will become much more slow and dificult. This situation is about as close to "fact" as economic theory comes.

    Also the GDP of India may be growing rapidly, but it will take a long time with all that money spread out to a billion people for their standard of living to come anywhere close to what it is in America. In India poor people starve to death and die from weak immune systems from bad nutrition, in America poor people get fat off cheeseburgers and die of heart attacks.

     

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  9.  
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    Posterlogo, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 5:30pm

    True.

    Even ideally, I doubt this would work. This is essentially saying "I still want my gas, just not from you." Therein lies the problem... the whole wanting gas thing. The only way to reduce prices is to reduce demand. Stop driving everywhere. Carpool. Use public transportation. Use alternative energy, like hybrids. Gas prices are one system that really does follow those ideal supply-demand/price curves we learned about in macroeconomics, even with OPEC mitigating market forces. Supply is kept at the edge of scarcity, so the only way to reduce prices -- reduce demand.

     

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  10.  
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    Ap, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 6:03pm

    China and India

    I don't have the numbers for China but as of now there are 300 million middle class Indians. Middle class consumers that United States companies are not marketing to because they have their heads up their domestic asses (or their domestic's asses). South Korea, on the other hand is sellin the hell outta cars, washing machines, and all the appliances and toys it can make for the Indian market. The poverty that we associate with countries like India and China are just the results of an unequal, antiquated but changing wealth distribution system in those countries.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Brian, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 6:08pm

    Pick a company any company

    I have received similar emails to this recently and in the past. It seems people change the companies though. CNN reported a story in which the email suggested boycotting BP and Chevron. If I owned an oil company, I would send out an email with my competitions name in it...

     

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  12.  
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    nick, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 8:09pm

    Re: Big name needed

    Which if course begs the question how do we have to frame/spin the issue so that all of those people (Lou, Bill, Oprah, and George) would support it at the same time?

     

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  13.  
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    Sean Feeney, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 9:42pm

    Around longer than that

    The email has been passed around for far longer than just last week...I got that specific one last month, and one very similar over a year ago.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Chris, Apr 27th, 2006 @ 11:31pm

    No one cares enough, yet.

    As stated by posterlogo the only way that we're really going to see any change in gas prices is if demand goes down. This won't happen until everyone has to pay $5 a gallon, and that's just for your craptastic 86 octane. Higher octane fuels will force the already financially troubled airlines into more problems, relying on an already failing administration to help pull them out of their woes. Seeing what they did with a surplus, we can only imagine what will happen when they're already in debt. Adversely the consumer (passengers) will also get pissed because fares will have to go up as well to help compensate. Add that to the price of gas they had to pay to drive to the airport, then the gas they'll need for a rental car, and you'll have yourself some irate people. Freight companies such as UPS or FedEx will also be affected. Fleets of thousands of trucks and hundreds of planes doubling their expenses won't help business much either. Not to mention tanker ships that require enough fuel to carry a load that weights as much as a city block halfway across the world. Take a vessel that already takes millions of dollars in gas, then double the cost, and you're faced with the same problem of needed to generate more revenue. Once enough industries are affected enough to the point where they'll have to manage their petrol consumption rates, then you might get less of a demand. However, it's more than likely that instead of insisting that an alternative be provided, they'll want the prices to just be regulated.

    Next time your at the pump just remember that most US oil is domestic and the prices really aren't being affected because of the cost of the oil, but the greed of stocks (over simplified and exaggerated, but not much).

     

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  15.  
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    Simon, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 2:14am

    UK

    We had exactly the same thing in the UK a few years back. Needless to say, it didn't work.

     

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  16.  
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    Rob Miles, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 2:49am

    I've got a better boycott

    Considering Oil Companies on average make about 9 cents per gallon, and the government makes 50 to 60 cents per gallon, any boycott should logically be focused on our goverments (this applies for Americans only, because I don't know or care how the rest of the world does it.) If you think the US government really needs all that money they get in taxes, that's fine but don't complain about high gas prices or blame it all on the oil companies.


    Boycotting the government makes more sense than boycotting one single gas provider.


    Rob Miles
    --
    There are only 10 types of people in the world;
    those who understand binary and those who don't.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Mitch, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 4:31am

    First Posters

    To start I am sorry abotu the empty post I hit enter instead of tab. (Rough night last night) Anyway I know techdirt does not delete any posts by policy (a good one at that) but I think this stupid "First" thing is way out of control and completely stupid. Can we do anything to dicourage it outside of just calling these people lamers? (afterall I think calling them names just makes htem more likely to do it agian) I am not talking about people who say wow they got first post and then continue on with the discussion at hand but people who put up posts that say nothing other than that they got the first post.

    Just my $0.02

     

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  18.  
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    widepart, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 5:19am

    Energy Policy

    Well I'm hopin' that the former second and third world countries will lead the way. They're populations in general have not yet succumbed to the automobile in they way the west has. They have they opportunity to ban gasoline and diesel cars and go with alternative fuels ........if they do this NOW their growth to world leading powers, social, and econimic will be swift and we'll have to follow or be become them in twenty or thirty years.

     

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  19.  
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    Professor HighBrow, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 8:49am

    Re: I've got a better boycott

    Oil Companies on average make about 9 cents per gallon, and the government makes 50 to 60 cents per gallon

    Pardon? Can you site your sources, as to where you obtained this information?

    I'm not saying your wrong, but this is highly suspect, considering that gas prices have fluctuated much faster than any legislation could possibly be passed.....I don't remember any sudden tax laws being passed and then repealed when Katrina was going on.

    Maybe your statistics are averaged out over the past century or something....

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    cybermarc, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 11:47am

    Try buying gas in Holland?

    Hmmm as long as we are talking about high oil prizes, try buying a gallon of fuel in the Netherlands, I have calculated the prices here, 1 gallon is 3,79 liters, 1 dollar is 0,80 eurocents, we pay about 1,44 Euro for a liter, 5,45 Euro a gallon.
    That’s an amazing 6 dollar 54 a gallon……..
    My guess is that your prizes can and will be rising for a while……

    Greetz, cyber

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Rob Miles, Apr 28th, 2006 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re: I've got a better boycott

    First, I should modify my statement to the governmentS make 50 to 60 cents per gallon, as State and Local taxes are taken into account as well as the Federal taxes. State and local taxes vary widely.

    As originally stated, I made it sound as though the Federal taxes alone are 50 to 60 cents, which is incorrect.

    My source for this is from Energy Information Administration's Primer on Gasoline Prices (http://www.eia.doe.gov/bookshelf/brochures/gasolinepricesprimer/eia1_2005primerM.html)

    Another source is from the company ConocoPhillips, located at http://www.conocophillips.com/newsroom/other_resources/energyanswers/oil_profits.htm. I understand that you might not consider either the Government or oil company's information to be reliable, and I will be willing to review opposing information from other sources.

    Rob Miles
    --
    There are only 10 types of people in the world;
    those who understand binary and those who don't.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Peter Rambo, May 1st, 2006 @ 12:04am

    Well...

    First, it's hard to boycott the government.

    Second, the government used the x cents it gets from a gallon of gas to keep the roads and such repaired. Well... at least in theory.

    Third, Europe's gas prices are higher than ours but they tax their gas at a far higher rate and use their taxes to pay for roads and public transportation.

    Fourth, the odd thing about gas is that in America it's demand is built in and we're fat. I can and do ride a bike into work but most people are either too fat or too far away from where they work for it to be a logical mode of travel. Public transport is out because oil people have gutted public transport at every opportunity and convinced the public that only the poor take the bus, the train is for sight seeing and if it's too far to drive just fly.

     

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