Opinion

Oregonians Freak Out Over Having to Pump Their Own Gas: The Nanny State in Action

On January 1st of this year, Oregon passed a law that allowed self-serve gas stations to operate, but only on a limited basis, “only at stand-alone gas stations in counties with fewer than 40,000 residents. Elsewhere, the ban still holds.” New Jersey is the lone holdout state on prohibiting self-serve gas stations. That’s right, for decades self-serve gas stations have been operating in the United States with no harmful effects, but these two states know better.

The reactions of some Oregonians read like comments from a satire site. Are their people out there who are this inept and unwilling to learn something new?

  • “Many people are not capable of knowing how to pump gas and the hazards of not doing it correctly. Besides I don’t want to go to work smelling of gas when I get it on my hands or clothes. I agree Very bad idea.”
  • “I don’t even know HOW to pump gas and I am 62, native Oregonian… I say NO THANKS! I don’t want to smell like gasoline!”
  • “I’ve lived in this state all my life and I REFUSE to pump my own gas. I had to do it once in California while visiting my brother and almost died doing it. This a service only qualified people should perform. I will literally park at the pump and wait until someone pumps my gas. I can’t even”

For these people and others like them, here’s a site that will help them learn how to pump their own gas:  WikiHow has a step-by-step set of visual instructions with a written explanation on how to pump your own gas. There’s even a question and answer section.

Gas stations could make available an attendant to help people who are hesitant about pumping their own gas. Over time, everyone will have learned. gas stations could give them a sticker that says, “I can pump my own gas.” Parents should teach their children how to pump their own gas like they should teach them how to check the oil and change a flat tire.

There were those in the state legislature who opposed legislation to make self-serve gas stations available to the public. Even though 48 states operate self-serve gas stations, and have done so for decades, these numbskulls came up with ridiculous reasons to ban people from pumping their own gas and thereby save money.

As part of the Oregon law, legislators listed a staggering 17 different reasons to defend the state’s “prohibition on the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail.” According to the legislature, pumping your own gas is a “health hazard,” whereas requiring “properly trained” attendants to pump gas “reduces fire hazards.” In addition, self-service stations expose customers to “the dangers of crime and slick surfaces,” while leaving small children in the car to pay for gas “creates a dangerous situation.” (Forbes)

These three caught my attention:

(7) Exposure to toxic fumes represents a health hazard to customers dispensing Class 1 flammable liquids;

(8) The hazard described in subsection (7) of this section is heightened when the customer is pregnant;

(9) The exposure to Class 1 flammable liquids through dispensing should, in general, be limited to as few individuals as possible, such as gasoline station owners and their employees or other trained and certified dispensers (Oregon Laws)

I worked at a gas station while in high school and college. It took about 5 minutes for me to be “properly trained.” Self-serve stations in Michigan were just coming online when I was a student at Western Michigan University in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I pumped a lot of gas for customers.

It seems that Oregon is willing to allow the negative effects of pumping gasoline to damage the brain cells of a few gas jockeys to save the lives of the rest of the population. If pumping your own gas once a week is a health hazard, then it must be a horrendous health hazard for someone who’s doing it for 8 hours a day, five days a week. Apparently, this is the price that Oregon has been willing to pay to save most Oregonians from a grievous health hazard.

Oregon’s legislature is concerned with unborn babies in the case of pregnant women who pump their own gas. But what if she was pumping her own gas on her way to kill her unborn baby? She would have every right to do that, but not pump her own gas.

For the very few people who are negatively affected by having to pump their own gas, Oregon and New Jersey have burdened 99 percent of the rest of population who want the freedom to pump their own gas and the lower costs associated with that freedom. This is typical of liberalism. If one person is offended because of a word or action, everyone else must be forced to pay the price for that offense.

There are other examples of state governments regulating industries by creating legal “bottlenecks” to make it time-consuming and expensive to work in an industry:

  • Louisiana is the only state in the nation that requires a license to arrange flowers. Untrained flower arrangers might prick their fingers and use dirty dirt.
  • Florida requires a license for interior design, “which requires six years of education and training to obtain. When the state legislature considered a repeal bill, one licensed interior designer testified that using the wrong fabrics could spread infectious diseases in hospitals. ‘What you’re basically doing,’ she told lawmakers who backed deregulation, ‘is contributing to 88,000 deaths every year.’ Ultimately, the reform failed, meaning Florida is still one of just three states to license the practice.”
  • Oregon also requires “licenses to paint nails, cut hair or install drywall” that “require vastly more experience and training than a license to become an emergency medical technician, who provide life-saving care to those who may need it (like people terrified of pumping their own gas). (Forbes)

Many of these “bottleneck” laws are designed to protect certain lobbied industries from competition.

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