A group of online activists, made up of mostly young people, are heavily promoting a nationwide protest to “boycott” pumping gas on April 15 this year.
They say they hope to lower gas prices and to “put a dent in the Middle Eastern oil industry for at least one day,” and are citing an old infographic littered with false and uncorroborated data as proof that it’s worked in the past.
Some tweets of the message have gone mega-viral over the last few days.
This message asks people to avoid going to gas stations on Monday.
“If all users did not go to the pump on the 15th, it would take $2,292,000,000.00… out of the oil companies pockets for just one day,” it claims.
Using an anecdote and incident that does not appear to have been real, the “boycott” claims a “gas out” organized in April 1997 effectively forced the gasoline industry to drop prices by 30 cents a gallon overnight.
Unfortunately for those sharing the image, this did not happen and will not happen.
Even if gas activists participated this year on April 15, it will most likely not affect prices overnight — or at all.
According to Snopes, the “gas out” messages have been recirculating online every few years since as early as 2000.
The fact-checking website deemed it as “false” by using simple logic. For one, it claims a single-day “gas out” is a “hollow” threat to the ginormous gasoline industry.
“An effective protest would involve something like organizing people to forswear the use of their cars on specified days, an act that could effectively demonstrate the reality of the threat that if gasoline prices stayed high, American consumers were prepared to move to carpooling and public transportation for the long term,” the website wrote. “Simply changing the day one buys gas, however, imparts no such threat.”
Moreover, no data cited in the messaging of the protest has been found to exist.
In 2007, NBC News attempted to verify a similar message that was being sent around via email. “There are 73,000,000-plus Americans currently on the Internet network, and the average car takes about $30 to $50 to fill up,” the email chain read.
NBC News was unable to find any of the data points listed in the message within the statistics compiled by the Department of Energy.
It also makes the point that if one day of a “gas out” caused barrels of oils to go unused for a day, the following days of gas fill-ups will cause stock prices to restore, if not be sold at a higher and more profitable price later on.
In 2012, Politifact debunked the original infographic that’s being used today that was starting to go viral on Facebook. The outlet used similar reasoning and fact-checking to determine that “there’s no evidence and no data to support this claim.”
They also determined that the average price change on a gallon of gasoline in April of 1997 was less than one cent.
Now, it’s becoming clear that every couple of years, this rumor makes its rounds on the internet as publications try to wrestle it back in to debunk it.
This year is no different. However, in 2019, the primary platform the “gas out” effort seems to live on — and spread quickly and more massively — is Twitter.
Some online, however, are pointing out the flaws in the logic.
“If y’all don’t stop with this nonesensical [sic] bullshit,” one person wrote, retweeting a user’s post of the fake message that now has over 67,000 retweets. (The tweet calling the “bullshit” out has 11 likes currently).
Because of how big it’s become, some are even turning it into a complete joke.
“Dont cum on April 15,2012,” one user parodied. “In april 1997 there was a ‘cum out’ people did this and lowered the price of cummies. if we dont masturbate the cum companies will lose 2,292,000,000 dollars.”
But we don’t want to be total buzzkills. For those frustrated with rising gas prices, if you feel empowered by not going to the gas stations on April 15, feel free participate in the “gas out.”
It may not make a dent, but it exercises your personal agency. Go for it.