Date Added: Aug. 27, 2005
One thing I've learned from years of analyzing e-mail chain letters is that people are strongly divided on a number of political issues. But one thing that almost every American agrees upon is that gas prices are rising and that increase is having an effect on our economy and our pockets. What we don't agree upon, however, is how to go about fixing this problem. This so-called petition has good intentions, but misses the mark.
Subject: FW: Lower Gas Prices
PETITION FOR PRES. BUSH Presidential Petition Please do NOT let this petition stop and lose all these names. If you do not want to sign it, please forward it to everyone you know. To add your name, click on "forward". You will be able to add your name at the bottom of the list and then forward it to your friends. Or, if necessary you can copy and paste and then add your name to the bottom of the list.
THE 2,000TH PERSON PLEASE SEND IT ON TO THE FOLLOWING E-MAIL ADDRESS:
Thank you very much.
PETITION TO LOWER GAS and Diesel PRICES IN THE UNITED STATES: if we all stick together the way we did during 911 and the way our soldiers do daily we can make this happen By participating in gas out days and petitions like this one. The government knows we have to have gas and they are taking advantage of the situation to pad there pockets and our soldiers are Paying the price for this. So lets make a difference by sticking together!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[More than 1,600 names removed]
please do NOT let this petition stop and lose all these names. If you do not want to sign it, please just forward it to everyone you know.
E-mail chain letters proposing accessible ways the common consumer can make a stand about high gas prices are certainly not new. Since 1999, armchair activists have repeatedly tried to exploit the near-infinite reach and relative ease of the Internet to achieve their goals.
The proposed plans to get the attention of government and industry have ranged from refusing to buy gas from a given company, to skipping the pumps on a given day. The chain letter above uses an old standby - the e-mail petition - to motivate President George W. Bush to lower prices. Problem is, he can't.
Gasoline prices in the United States are influenced by a number of factors, not the least of which is the price of crude oil coming from suppliers in the Middle East, South America and domestic sources. While the President may have a few courses of action at his disposal that would provide temporary relief from the rise (reducing taxes on fuel, providing incentives for alternate fuel source development, promoting expansion of U.S. refining capacity and opening the nation's emergency fuel reserves), he has little (if any) control over the price of crude oil, thus little power to promote long-term change.
Undaunted by this fact, many believe that, even if the President has little power in this matter, this "petition" serves to show him that we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. But, let's look at this petition rather critically, through the Seven Tests of Armchair Activism:
While we all feel the sting of high gas prices, it seems many people want the solution to come from the outside. In reality, each of us has numerous methods at our disposal for reducing our own out-of-pocket costs for fuel - many of which, if done for a prolonged period of time, could eventually help control global gas prices by reducing demand:
But, these things require long-term change and dilligence on an individual level. Forwarding an e-mail petition like the above is easy, free and provides instant gratification with little effort. It also produces little, if any, results. In the words of legendary college football coach Woody Hayes: "Nothing easy is worth a damn." Break this chain.