Civil Discourse: Pumping Our Own Gas?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels.

Our Civil Discourse Program doesn’t hesitate to take on hot and relative topics, with a wide range of subjects. Here’s their most recent op-ed; Should Oregonion’s pump their own gas?

Oregon Should Allow People to Pump Their Own Gas

48 states have allowed people to pump their own gas for some time now.  However, Oregon remains one of the two that doesn’t. The reasons are unclear, but the vast majority of Oregonians haven’t been able to pump their own gas since 1951. During the legislative session that ended last week, there was a new bill that could have changed our state’s current policy, House Bill 4151. This bill would have allowed people to pump their own gas while still obtaining assistance from an attendant, if that is their preferred choice. Although the bill failed to make it out of committee, due to its bipartisan support, we anticipate similar legislation coming up again in the future.

The biggest advantage of HB 4151 is that it saves time.  Once a person is parked, they can start pumping.  During busy hours when attendants are scrambling from car to car, people won’t be required to wait for them.  Another benefit is that people will be able to obtain gas 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Maybe a person needs to fill their tank during a roadtrip in the middle of the night. They won’t have to worry about the gas station being closed because they can pump the gas themselves. Now there is some worry of improper use of gas station equipment and dangers that could come along with it. Some examples of this may consist of equipment damage, using the wrong type of fuel, and unawareness of surrounding vehicles. However, people in other states have somehow figured out a way to educate themselves on these issues.  We’re confident Oregonians will be able to as well.

The most crucial part of HB 4151 is that it won’t get rid of gas station attendants. For Oregonians who prefer someone to fill their gas tank for them, that option will still be available. The bill will simply allow people to pump their own gas if that is what they prefer. Some may fear that self-service will inevitably be the only option once this bill is passed. Certain people like the handicapped, elderly, youth, and many others may prefer an attendant to help. This shouldn’t be a terrible problem because if the owner doesn’t have an attendant present, they could get fined

Another question is: would this bill take away available jobs? The answer is no.  The gas stations still need to provide full-attendant service. Oregon’s problem is not the shortage of available jobs, but the shortage of labor. As a dual-enrolled college student, Gabriel has to drive between Corvallis and Albany daily. It is astounding the number of “now hiring” or “help wanted” signs he sees during that short drive. 

Imagine pulling into a gas station and seeing more vehicles than pumps.  One attendant is slowly moving from vehicle to vehicle.  If you had the choice, would you pull into the self-service section?  If you’re even considering “yes,” then the main objective of HB 4151 is worthy of your support.

Authors: Gabriel Knox, Miles Henderson, and The Civil Discourse Program

Oregon Should Not Allow People to Pump Their Own Gas

Only two states have laws prohibiting individuals from pumping their own gas, Oregon and New Jersey. Residents in these states can go their entire lives without a full understanding of how fuel gets into a vehicle. We’re glad that House Bill 4151 failed to get out of committee this past legislative session. While the bill may have seemed like an innocuous change, we feel it could have led to many unforeseen consequences.

After experiencing a global pandemic, cleanliness and sanitary conditions remain ongoing concerns. For that reason alone, it doesn’t feel like an appropriate time for our state to be encouraging people to touch things they never previously had a reason to touch. Gas stations are not the cleanest of businesses and it is unlikely that unattended customers will reverse that trend. Additionally, the effects of the gasoline spills can be disastrous on the areas they occur in. Advancements have been made to pump technology that significantly decreases the likelihood of spills, but with 3.1 million potential novice gas pumpers, anything could happen.

While Oregonians and New Jerseyans may not have a full understanding of how to get fuel into a car, residents of other states don’t get to experience the luxury of staying in your car when it’s pouring down rain, freezing, or the temperature is hotter than the Mojave Desert. Think of the tired mother with a baby in her car, the newly licensed teen out late, the elderly couple in their Sunday best on the way to church, or the disabled drivers that may need assistance to exit their vehicles and find someone to help them. These folks appreciate the convenience of an attendant pumping their gas.

The other thing we have that other states don’t are lots of jobs for gas station attendants. While HB 4151 would still have required an attendant to be present, far less would be needed to fulfill the needs of each station. With Oregon’s unemployment rate at 4.1%, these are jobs we don’t want to lose. 

Jobs wouldn’t have been the only thing we lost if this bill had passed. The uniqueness of Oregon goes beyond our beautiful landscapes and majestic lack of sales tax. It also includes our friendliness and superior drive to take care of our neighbors. If we pump our own fuel, we’ll destroy another little interaction that creates community by losing the opportunity to connect with our friendly gas attendants

Finally, advocates of HB 4151 will be quick to say that the bill would not eliminate the attendant position and that drivers will still have the option of having their gas pumped for them. This is true, but for how long? California used to have many stations with self-serve and full-service pumps but now it’s almost impossible to find a full-service pump in the state. Do we want to be more like California? Are we willing to lose a piece of what makes us unique?  Preserve our cultural heritage.  Protect Oregon’s current gas pumping laws from being changed.

Authors: Nick May, Cheyanne Rider, Yahaira Suarez, and The Civil Discourse Program

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