Monday, June 10, 2013

State Op-ed: Oregon self-service ban

How many Oregon residents have never had the pleasure of pumping their own gas? Oregon’s ban on self service gas stations intrigue me. Where I come from, most people learn to pump gas before they can legally drive a car. Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states in the US that ban self service throughout the entire state. In Oregon, violators of the ban could receive $500 ticket for filling up their own tank(ORS480.315-320). Strange for a state that mandates that you must administer your own lethal injection.

The ban on self service grew nationwide in the 1930’s when pumping gas was deemed dangerous task. Often the tank would overflow, or cigarette pumps would cause explosions. However, gas pumping technology has come a long way since the 1930’s. Its been about 60 years since the self-stopping fuel nozzle on pumps were invented and released. As of 1960s, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) deemed pumping fuel a safe activity for non professional individuals. Additionally, claims of environmental degredation caused by careless pumping are no longer a concern. Congress addressed problems of leaking underground gasoline storage tanks in Hazardous and Solid Waste Amendment passed in 1984. (Johnson and Ramero 627). As pumping gas is become increasingly safe for humans and the environment, most states removed their bans on self service.
The Oregon law banning self service, ORS480.315 provides interesting rational as to why the ban is necessary. Interesting points are not limited, but include “10a) the significantly higher prices typically charged for full-service fuel dispensing in states where self service is permitted at retail discriminates against customers with lower incomes, who are under greater economic pressure to subject themselves to the inconvenience and hazards of self service” Further, the law argues “14) self service dispensing at retail contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people” The employment aspect of self service is the most important piece of the legislation. However, I find the law to be contradictory. How can a law argue that dispensing gas is a hazard to low income people, yet argue that dispensing gas is a perfect solution to create low income positions?
I’m not arguing that the work of gas attendants is not important. However, I think its an important that we ask how legislation like this creates the same kind of equity problems that its trying to solve. Research indicates positive correlations between employment and access to automobiles (Blumenberg, E., & Manville, M) I question how improvements to accessibility of transportation would create a better job market for the “young and under qualified”? One argues, that making improvements to the already existing transit system, is the best solution for job creation.

Blumenberg, E., & Manville, M. (2004). Beyond the spatial mismatch:
welfare recipients and transportation policy. Journal of Planning
Literature, 19(2), 182-205.

Johnson, Ronald. "The Impact Of Self-Service Bans In The Retail Gasoline Market." The Impact Of Self-Service Bans In The Retail Gasoline Market. The Review of Economics and Statistics, Nov. 2000. Web. 10 June 2013.

H.R. ORS480.315-320 (2011) (enacted).

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