The revelation that Portland recently had the lowest average gasoline price in the country led The Oregonian to editorialize on Monday that Oregon’s ban on self-serve gas does not raise prices and is therefore acceptable public policy. The opinion poked fun at conspiracy theories surrounding industry motives for lowering the region’s prices.
Clearly, cutting operating costs could push prices even lower, but cost is a minor issue compared to the threat to freedom that a self-serve ban poses. Forty-eight other states allow self-serve gas, but Oregon’s law requires motorists to have professional assistance in order to fill up. The law is rationalized on the basis of safety, though it is clear no one actually believes pumping gas is dangerous.
Nevertheless, the law sets the terrible precedent of prohibiting the public from handling a potentially dangerous material. The problem is especially significant given the modern misguided drive for safety over freedom.
Within the context of fuel, Oregonians must be wary of new legislation that would prevent individuals from making their own biofuel. There are powerful interest groups, like the soy-checkoff funded National Biodiesel Board, that oppose small scale “homemade” production of biodiesel on safety grounds. They’d rather people purchase biofuels than seize this opportunity for self-sufficiency and independence.
I’ve made biodiesel many times; it’s very easy and safe if basic precautions are followed. Humans have successfully handled dangerous materials for many, many centuries, and Oregon should not pretend otherwise.
Incidentally, The Oregonian should investigate whether petroleum prices have dropped in areas where biofuels are advancing before it joins the conspiracy denial chorus. Otherwise readers might assume media bias prevents criticism of big oil.
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