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Urban legends debunked #2378: “Petrol Prices -This could work!”

Matthew Chatfield

The Ranger doesn’t normally stray from conservation-type topics into the dangerous realms of wider environmental activism. After all, there’s more than enough green hocus on the web already without his help. But today, he’s displeased. He’s no friend to spam, and generally ignores it. But a particular morsel of spam really stuck in his throat – here’s an extract:

petrol prices email

In short, and without doing it the honour of repeating it, it suggests that we all stop buying petrol from two named big brands, until they are suitably chastised and reduce their prices to 69p/litre. The rest is mainly the padding that chain letters normally carry, such as:

If each of us sends this email out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8days!!!

Now, there are so many things wrong with all this that it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s just leave aside the principle that any email urging you to ‘send this to everyone you know’ should be consigned without consideration to a digital doom of deletion. Having taken the trouble to read it, the most obvious problem gives the lie to the email’s title: actually, friends, this couldn’t work. And we know this because the very same email has been circulating in one form or another since 2001 – and here’s a library of dated examples to prove it, along with an economist’s debunking of the rather foolish premise of the whole thing. It also goes without saying that encouraging cheaper petrol isn’t really a sustainable aspiration. Painful, undoubtedly, but if we wish to avoid trouble we’re all going to need to use less petrol, not more. But here’s the most annoying thing, and the reason this appears on these pages. If you send one of these darned chain emails on, you’re not only advertising your own gullibility and ignorance of netiquette; you’re also usually publicising the emails of your friends, and their friends, to a load of people who they would probably rather didn’t see them. And that’s a bit naughty. So assuming those who sent on all these details don’t mind having their own published, it’s time to name names. Here are some details of the people who actually took the trouble to forward the email that ultimately reached The Ranger. All these people not only forward chain emails, but also think that petrol should be cheaper, and that we can achieve this by boycotting oil firms: 9 January 2008: Roy Blundell of Autoquip Midlands Ltd. Auto-quip – probably some kind of car parts firm. Probably no surprise that their employees want cheaper petrol. 9 January 2007: Amanda of Century Homes. Property developer, maybe? Timber frame supplier actually. Yes, it’s not really beyond belief that she’d be in favour of more driving around. 9 January 2008: Brooke Thistlethwaite. Nice name, Brooke. 9 January 2008: Rebecca Morris of TNT Post North West. Courier firm? Probably going to want cheap petrol. Figures. 11 January 2008: Lee Smith. 12 January 2008: Breakfast Club Bar 360. Not even a name here – some kind of nightclub in Stoke-on-Trent. Can’t really see the petrol connection, but this person emailed their whole address book by the look of it. 12 January 2008: Mel Watkiss. Hi Mel. 12 January 2008: Gavin Titus. Do you ever apply for any jobs, Gavin, with your cool email address iskinup@…? Looks like we’re getting a bit further from that corporate, transport-related original theme here. 29 January 2008: Kerry of the Big Green Gathering Co Ltd, Glastonbury. Took your time didn’t you, Kerry? Hang on, where do you work again? Would that be Which says:

The Big Green Gathering is for people who care about health, the environment, sustainability, our children’s future and life in general. It is a celebration of our natural world and our place within it. As such it is a place for enjoyment, learning and fun. Unhealthy activities are not encouraged. The only things taken in excess should be love, peace, joy, and friendship.

…and lots of lovely petrol all round? Oh, come on. 29 January 2008: Christine Bell. An Ask The Ranger correspondent from 2007 obviously thought this would be something worth sending to The Ranger. No doubt, looking at the impressive range of environmental worthies on her list, she was just as incensed by it as he was, and wanted to draw it to his attention. So, in short, please don’t send on email chains – and especially none about cheaper petrol. It won’t work, and even if it did, we’d be better off if it hadn’t.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

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