Saturday, May 05, 2007

Response to "Dont't pump gas on May 15" Email Virus

Now that summer is upon us again, and the seasonal gas additives are being additted, it seems the "Let's not pump gas on a certain date" virus has started its relentless march across the internet. Several people have forwarded this email to me over the past few years, and now I am bored enough to write a response to it. Below is a step-by-step breakdown of how nearly every statistic, point, and conclusion found in the email is wrong.

The original email will be formatted this like this. My comments will be formatted like this. Also note that I haven't changed the original email in any way. All the misspellings and grammar mistakes are preserved for your amusement.

Original email begins here:

I say its worth a try!!

Ø NO GAS...On May 15 2005

Body: Don't pump gas on may 15th

Body: April 1997, there was a "gas out" conducted nationwide in protest of gas prices. Gasoline prices dropped 30 cents a gallon overnight.

::There is no record of this happening. This claim has absolutely no evidence to support it. There are plenty of sources that list that is NOT true. This statement is false. However, there is some evidence that this has happened in 1999, and throughout the 2000s. Ironically, as a result of these later boycotts, most gas stations saw an overnight price spike, not a drop. So, if anything, boycotting gas stations for one day causes the price to go up, not down.

::Since the premise is flawed, any deductions are equally flawed, QED. There was no "Gas-out in April 1997." Even if there was, the date of the gas-out is not supplied, so there is no way to tell when the overnight price drop of $0.30 would've occured. Even if we did know the date (we don't) and we did see a price drop (we didn't), there is no way to make a causal relationship between people not going to the pumps and the gas price dropping. We don't know how many people didn't go to the gas pumps.

On May 15th 2007, all internet users are to not go to a gas station in protest of high gas prices. Gas is now over $3.00 a gallon in most places.

::Assumptions galore! Who said gas is "$3.00 a gallon in most places"? This is a completly unqualified statement. Again, we have to assume it's true for any of this to work. Secondly, the phrase "high gas prices" is completely arbitrary. People in England would be happy to pay $3.00 for a gallon of gas as would people in Canada.

It's also import to note that the price we see on the local Shell Station marquee is not the actual price of gas. It's a subsidized price. The way it works in America is the goverment collects taxes from its citizens, then uses some of the money to pay oil companies to keep the price down. It's called oil subsidization. Americans are actually paying close to the same amount for gas as people in other countries, it's just that we pay part of the price at the pumps and part of the price in taxes that come out of our income.

Due to this fact, people can't make very effective comparisons between gas and other non-subsidized goods. We have to look at the true cost of a good to make a comparison, otherwise it's apples and oranges.

There are 73,000,000+ American members currently on the internet network, and the average car takes about 30 to 50 dollars to fill up.

1. People are not members of the internet. They might use it, but they can't join it like some kind of fan-club.

2. The average car may take $30 - $50 to fill up from empty, but the point the email is making is that every person who uses the internet also owns a car. Of course, this is preposterous. Many non-driving-age children, people who ride bikes, use public transportation, and millions of other people use the internet yet don't buy gas.

3. The most current CIA statistics for Americans who've used the internet once in the past month is 205 million. So, that static is also wrong.

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 companys pockets for just one day, so please do not go to the gas station on May 15th and lets try to put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day.

::Okay. There are so many grammatical, logical, and statistical problems with this run-on sentence, I'll have go step-by-step.

1. We've already established that not everyone who uses the internet owns a vehicle (let alone a car) or is responsible for filling the vehicle, so any conclusions being deduced from that premise are, by definition, wrong. But, just for laughs, let's see where this hypothetical argument takes us.

2. Assuming the above numbers and conclusions are correct, this scheme still wouldn't work. It certainly wouldn't be keeping much money out of oil companies pockets since much of the cost of the gas we buy at the pumps isn't a direct result of the crude oil prices alone. 25% of the price comes from local and state taxes. 9% comes from distribution and marketing of the gas. So, if this happened, people would actually be depriving their AMERICAN communities and AMERICAN-run gas stations and trucking services of money, in addition to a Middle Eastern oil company. As a result of the boycott, these AMERICAN companies would suffer the greatest harm.

Here's a good report from the Council on Foreign Relations that explains the where the high cost of consumer bought gas prices comes from. This is backed by, you know, evidence.

3. Most importantly, the email just asks people to not buy gas on that day. So what happens on May 16th? When we do run out of gas, where are we going to purchase it? The gas stations. At the end of any given week, even if everyone skipped a day, the sales would still be the same. The reason this seems so appetizing is because it's a quick fix. Even in principle, the only way to affect gas prices at the pumps is by changing your gas consumption habits over a long period of time. Come May 16 th, everyone would still have to fill up somewhere.

If you agree (which I can't see why you wouldn't) resend this to all your contact list. With it saying, ''Don't pump gas on May 15th"

::The email claims to not understand how anyone would not want to do this. It's easy to understand why: This is email is riddled with half-truths and lies. It attempts to make its arguments be appealing to emotion, not fact. If something seems too simple and good to be true, it is.

This "no gas" email is a well-documented internet virus. These are commonly called social engineering viruses because they are spread not by security problems with email applications, but by exploiting weaknesses in people's understanding of security. This is A) An appeal to emotion B) An idea that seems very simple. It is not, however, anything anyone could put any stock in due to being riddled with logical, economic, and grammatical horrors.

Before re-forwarding emails that have been forwarded to you, check out It's a clearinghouse for these kinds of urban myths and social engineering email viruses. Here's the link for a more thorough dissection of the "No Gas" virus that has been spreading.

For you are my rock and my fortress;therefore,for your name's sake. Lead me and guide me. Ps.31:3

::What does this passage have to do with oil? I mean, come on! It's not even remotely related. A quick note: If someone invokes the bible to make their point, it's probably an appeal to emotion, not reason.


(This guy kept forwarding these emails. Look what happened to him.)


Mandy said...

Dooders is a jealous god....

One-Kleiner-Niner said...

I recently received this email. Common sense will tell you if you don't buy gas on the 15th you will have to buy it before or after that date anyway. What I propose is the construction EMP burst towers. These towers would send out steady electro-magnetic pulse waves specifically tuned to car electronics and pace makers. It would render all automobiles except for the Toyota Prius useless. After all, it’s one of the quickest cars from 0 to 6 mph.

Another idea would be a “Call in to tell your boss I quit day”. This would allow a person the freedom of never having to drive to work. When money gets tight it would also be a deterrent from using an automobile. If money gets even tighter you could carve out a boat from a tree on your property and use it to travel to a deserted island in the south pacific. I’d also get a laptop with one of those battery recharging hand cranks and a stolen satellite connection. You could then use the internet to research handy stranded island survival skills.