Oregon’s Self-Service Gas Prohibition Probably Won’t End—But It Should

Only two states prohibit motorists from pumping their own gasoline: New Jersey and Oregon. I’m not sure what excuses the powers-that-be use in New Jersey, but here they in-effect warn that “you’ll set yourself on fire.” The ban went into effect in 1951, and the only attempt to end it failed at the polls in 1982.

The Oregonian published a provocative editorial last week making fun of our self-serve ban, but prohibitionists came out of the woodwork to make argument after argument in favor of keeping the ban.

The three most popular arguments for keeping the ban seem to be:

I don’t want to pump my own gas, so you can’t either;

The ban is a good “make-work program” that keeps people employed and tax revenue flowing; and,

Employing attendants doesn’t make our gas more expensive anyway.

First, I don’t want to pump my own gas either, but that doesn’t give me the right to prohibit you from pumping yours. If there is enough demand for station attendants, someone will fill that demand in a free market.

Second, sure, creating jobs is a good thing. But government “make-work programs” often misallocate resources, costing taxpayers more than any tax revenue they might generate.

And third, if labor costs have no impact on prices, then why not mandate one attendant for every pump? Or, mandate one checkout clerk for every customer at the grocery store? Lots of jobs will be created at apparently no cost to consumers; what could go wrong?

In short, it seems that too many Oregonians see our self-serve gas ban as something that makes our state unique. The ban probably won’t end, but it should.

Steve Buckstein is founder and Senior Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Stop Self-Service Electric Car Charging

A specter is haunting Oregon. One of two states that prohibit self-serve gasoline, Oregon is now caving in to the electric vehicle lobby by allowing owners to plug their cars into commercial charging stations all by themselves. They can even plug into personal charging stations and their own wall plugs at home. All this activity is taking place away from the protective eyes of our friendly, helpful state safety regulators.

 

Don’t these rogue individualist electric car owners know that they’re likely to electrocute themselves? What training do they have to safely charge anything? None. What about the innocent children and inquisitive neighbors who might be leaning against their cars when the power surges and turns their sleek metal machines into death traps? Don’t they know that it rains in Oregon, and rain and electricity don’t mix well at all?

 

NO. Not in Oregon. Oregon is for dreamers, not electric charging schemers. This travesty must not stand.

 

The Electric Vehicle Safety/Plug Jockey Jobs Act has just been introduced in Salem to require all commercial charging stations to be manned (or womaned) by state certified plug jockeys who must earn the state minimum wage.

 

The legislation further requires that if you want to charge your electric car at home, you must make an appointment at least 48 hours in advance with a state certified plug jockey who will arrive at your home within a specified four-hour window to plug in and charge your vehicle. He/she must stay at your home until the car is fully charged (which will average four to eighteen hours). Offering milk and cookies to the plug jockey is encouraged, but shall remain voluntary during a trial period. Once the car is fully charged, your plug jockey will unplug the vehicle and leave your home. You will be billed for his/her time to the nearest minute. To ensure tax compliance, these charging bills cannot be paid in cash to the plug jockey. Payments may be mailed to the State Department of Anachronistic Regulations, or may be deposited in special Plug Jockey Drop Boxes strategically placed throughout the state.

 

Oregonians know that they’ll set themselves on fire if they pump their own gasoline, and they know that low-skilled minimum wage workers will lose their jobs and form roving bands of disgruntled youth if we were ever to repeal our self-service gas ban. They now must recognize similar dangers associated with allowing the elite electric car owners among us to charge their own vehicles. We must stop this madness before it spreads to the general gasoline-car-owning population.

 

Call your state legislator now. Demand that they protect us against ourselves and create some unneeded jobs by voting for the Electric Vehicle Safety/Plug Jockey Jobs Act. Remember, it’s for the children.


In addition to being a founder and Senior Policy Analyst, Steve Buckstein occasionally serves as Cascade Policy Institute’s Satirist-in-residence.