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Hoaxes regarding automobiles, oil or gasoline

 

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GAS OUT PART 1 - Don't purchase on a specific day to bring down prices

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GAS OUT PART 2 - Don't purchase from certain refiners to bring down prices

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Buying gas from certain refiners funds terrorism

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Overpaying a speeding ticket WILL NOT prevent points from being added to your driving record.

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Your car can be stolen if someone knows the VIN #.

 

Gas Out - Don't Buy Gasoline On A Specific Day - last updated July 2010

The message urges people to not purchase ANY gasoline on one particular day.  It claims this will hit the oil companies in the pocketbook and force prices down, but does that really make sense?  The message gets dusted off every year and recirculated without change.

 

The message makes this claim:  "IT HAS BEEN CALCULATED THAT IF EVERYONE IN THE UNITED STATES DID NOT PURCHASE A DROP OF GASOLINE FOR ONE DAY AND ALL AT THE SAME TIME, THE OIL COMPANIES WOULD CHOKE ON THEIR STOCKPILES."  One has to look a little more carefully at the wording first: "it has been calculated. . . " by whom? Where does this authoritative information come from?

 

The original message also claims that a one day boycott would cost the industry over $4.6 billion in revenues.  This is patently ridiculous since, if everyone followed the advice, they'd just go get their gasoline the next day or day after, etc.  They will be purchasing THE SAME AMOUNT OF GASOLINE they normally would.  It would cost the industry nothing.  In 2002 all sales of petroleum products for ALL U.S. gas stations was on just over a half-billion per day.  As much as the cost has risen in 8 years, it still wouldn't amount to over $4.6 billion.  Further, on any day only about 10% of Americans buy gas.  If you wouldn't have bought gas on the "gas out" day anyway, you couldn't participate in the boycott anyway.

 

Gasoline is not the only product refined from crude oil as well.  Much of what we use on a daily basis is made from refined oil. Gas is just a part of it. 

 

One also has to deal with what the end cost of gasoline is really made up of.  I found the following breakdown in the Sunday, May 30, 2004 issue of the Orlando Sentinel (Money section).  The crude oil price accounts for a whopping 46% of the cost (which is now about $41.00 per barrel vs. $29.00 per barrel about a year ago).  "The FTC has attributed 80% of the increase in gasoline prices to the price of crude oil." 27% of the cost is eaten up in state and federal taxes.  The refining and marketing margins account for 11% and the actual refining costs are only 6% of the price.  Finally, add in transportation to the refinery (4%), transportation to stations (3%) and marketing costs (3%).  That certainly changes the look of things, doesn't it?  Those percentages would not have changed much in the last several years.  If anything, taxes would account for a higher percentage of the cost in 2010.  Further complications on prices arise due to natural disasters, man-made disasters and seasonal changes in gasoline type.  If you then begin to think in terms of supply and demand, gas may actually rise as demand lowers. 

 

Of more interest to me was the information about U.S. refineries.  In 1981 there were 324 refineries in the U.S.  By 2003, there were only 149.  Worse, according to the article, "at least three refineries proposed on the East Coast in recent years could get off the ground."  In 1981 there were enough refineries that they ran at only 69% capacity.  By 2003, the current refineries are operating at 93% capacity.  The Petroleum Industry Research Foundation sees the real problem as the lack of refining capacity.  To complicate matters, In 2005, Hurricane Katrina shut down a couple of the gulf coast refineries for quite some time.

 

The message ignores the need for transportation in the U.S., assuming, just as our government does, that people are constantly driving needlessly.  Without the trucking industry there will be no groceries on the store shelves.  Just think about what would happen if no trucker filled up on one particular day.  Then there are planes and RV's.  The travel and tourism industry in the U.S. has become one of the major sources of income as manufacturing and other industries dry up.  Finally, there are public services in which transportation is a major factor:  ambulance, fire, police, utility workers.  The little scheme sounds good on paper, but works out badly in real life.

 

The U.S. economy is highly dependent on transportation.  Perhaps some don't believe that.  I turn their attention to September 11, 2001.  What were the results of loss of flights for a week?  Living in a mainly tourist area I can assure you that the results were horrendous and the people most effected were those who could least afford it - the minimum wage earner and the small business owner.  Each of those jets must be filled up with gasoline.  Next, each truck that carries the food to your supermarket has to be filled up with gasoline much more than once per day.  Imagine the truck drivers not buying gasoline for a day!  What would happen?  Is the ripple effect beginning to make sense?

 

Next, think about the people who must drive on a daily basis in order to provide needed services to the community.  In our area, there are very few jobs of merit.  People with really good jobs commute 30-60 miles one way on a daily basis.  My husband used to be a Hospice Chaplain.  His entire job was dependent on him driving to the assisted living and nursing homes in a three county area on a daily basis.  When someone is dying, he had to respond.  Imagine him telling a grieving family that he can't come because he's not supposed to buy gas!  What about the ambulances?  Some days they would need to fill up more than once I'm sure.  This little scheme might sound good until it's your life and your family on the line or you don't have what you need on grocery shelves.

 

Not Buying Gas From Specific Refiners Will Bring Down Prices - updated July 2010

These messages encourage people not to buy gas from two big refiners.  This message is dusted off and circulated EVERY spring, but is it a good idea?  Will it work?

 

bulletMobile and Exxon (which are now one company) do not have gas stations in all parts of the country.  We only have one Mobile in our area that I can think of.  Does that mean that I'm not ever buying any gasoline refined by these companies?  No. 
bulletStations not owned by the big refiners buy their gas from the big refiners.  No matter where you go, you are probably buying gas from one of the big refiners:  Mobile, Exxon, Shell, BP (British Petroleum) & Citgo (and yes, Citgo is owned by Venezuela). These refiners get crude from Russia, the Middle East and South America.  Very little crude comes from the U.S.  Even if it is bought from Russia, it could originate in the Middle East.  We only hurt the station owners and workers by such a scheme.  The Mom & Pop store down the street is buying their gas from one of the biggies. 
bulletThe price we pay at the pump is only partly determined by the refiner.  The agent then has to make a profit.  We have stations here like Racetrac and Speedway.  They pay the refiner's price, then add to that for their profit, which is usually just pennies.   Of course, the owner of the Exxon station has to do the same thing. If Exxon was controlling the price of all gas refined by Exxon, then all gas stations bearing the name of Exxon in the same city and county should be charging the same price, but we all know that this isn't so. Next come federal, state and local taxes.  Pumps in our area have a sticker showing the state and federal tax added.  As of January 2010, the amount is over .31 cents.  That doesn't include our local taxes as well.
bulletBase prices charged by the refiners have a lot to do with production.  The production methods are even different in different seasons. The more plentiful the gasoline production, the lower prices are.  Summer gas is more expensive to produce.  Every Spring for the last few years, some version of this message comes out.  
bulletGasoline is only ONE product the refiners make from oil.  After all, oil is a needed lubricant in an industrialized world.  However, oil is also needed to make plastics and is used in paint and other chemicals.  Many are also in the natural gas business.
bullet Other factors like company mergers, oil spills, etc. will effect price. 

The end result of refusing to buy gas from stations marked as being Exxon or Mobile would be meaningless because you're buying their refined product just about no matter where you go.  One friend who knows what he's talking about has assured us that when the trucks pull up to the spigots in Tampa to load up with the stuff that's been shipped, there are not separate spigots for each refiner.  The upshot is that you have NOT ONE IDEA WHO REFINED THAT GAS YOU'RE USING.  You also don't know what country that refiner purchased the crude oil from.

Buying Gas From Certain Refiners Supports Terrorism

Another message that began circulating shortly after 9/11 claimed that purchasing gas from certain refiners supported terrorism.  What it doesn't mention is that buying gas might be supporting a socialistic country that is not on good terms with the U.S. at this time.  The message further claims that there are companies that do not purchase crude oil from the Middle East at all.  This is untrue.

 

Venezuela produces quite a bit of oil and owns Citgo.  They have close ties with Iran.  Venezuela also imports from Iraq .At the time this message first came out, Conoco mostly imported from Mexico, Venezuela and Canada.  They merged with Phillips in 2002 and Phillips does purchase from Middle Eastern countries. BP, Shell, Chevron/Texaco, Exxon/Mobil import from the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.  In 2002 when the message first started, neither Sinclair nor Sunoco were purchasing from the Middle East. 

 

One final note:  this message came out about one year before the U.S. entered Iraq.  Obviously, there were some changes there for the good, at least as far as Hussein having control of the oil.

 

Will overpaying a ticket keep points off your record?

The latest versions of this message (2003) claim that it has been sent by an insurance company.  However, there is no state in the United States in which this scheme will work. No knowledgeable insurance agent would make such a claim.

 

So, where did this strange idea start? In Australia! The very first version, which came out in 1998, showed that it was supposedly from the Royal Victorian Automobile Club of Victoria. However, research done on the message shows that this never was the case in Australia either. Research indicates that the message was a hoax from the beginning.

 

What happens if you make an overpayment? The city or county involved will take it an put it in a general fund. It will not be refunded and it sure won't keep any points off one's record.

Stealing a car by knowing the VIN #?

A message claims that thieves can steal your car by getting the VIN# off of it, then going to a dealer and getting a key. This particular car theft issue is not very widespread because it takes a great deal of planning and patience. It does happen, but rarely. In fact, the only known cases of it have occurred with cars in car lots and you'll see why in a moment. The thief has to take the time to get false paperwork made up, then go to the dealership to get the key made. They have to know where the car will be when they finish. It's just not a very practical way of stealing a car.

 

Back in December 2002, a Georgia/Alabama car theft ring was broken up and they admitted to using this procedure. However, they were stealing the cars from used car lots, so they would know exactly where to go back and get them.  In other words, unless a thief will know exactly where your car will be several hours later, this is useless.

 

There are quicker and better ways to steal cars without all this waiting and going to a dealer.  You can now get a master key for any car online for a price.  One of our local news reports did just that (letting the police know that they were doing so) and proceeded to show that they could get into just about any car of that make and model.  One wonders why no perpetual email message was ever developed for this doozy.

 

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