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Protest runs out of gas

Wire and staff reports

As she waited for a fill-up at a downtown Portland service station, motorist Christi Boom said she really wanted to participate in Friday's national gas boycott to oppose high prices.

There was just one little problem: She was running on empty.

Across a state that has the nation's fourth-highest gas prices -- up to $1.60 a gallon in some places -- necessity seemed to take precedence over protest.

It's kind of like food, you've got to buy it, said Mark Edlen, who also knew about the boycott before he forked over $31.70 to fill the tank on his Range Rover.

Rogue Valley drivers seem to have taken an equally pragmatic approach.

My tank was empty, said Medford's Mark Bokish after putting $8 worth of regular unleaded at $1.43 a gallon into his Ford Bronco at the Astro station on Jacksonville Highway.

I guess it's good to make a statement because I believe prices are too high. But I still have places to go.

It's as normal as can be, said an attendant at the BiMor station on East Main Street in downtown Medford. People are just saying, `I need it.'

It's been busy today, said Rueben Diaz, manager at the Arco am/pm off South Pacific Highway. There's nothing going on from that thing. It's just a normal Friday.

Gas dealers pointed out that the boycott, such as it was, had little real effect, since people were simply buying gas a day earlier or later.

Over the three-day period, the same amount of gas is going to be sold, said Mike Sherlock, executive director of the Oregon Gasoline Dealers Association.

Sherlock said the protest, which was promoted online by a San Jose, Calif., computer technician, was a very California thing: All flash but no substance.

One person who said he was driving right past the pumps Friday was U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who has taken aim at high gas prices across the West.

The Oregon Democrat has asked the Justice Department to look into the high prices and to determine whether to launch an antitrust investigation of the oil industry. He said that while the national average is $1.15 a gallon, Oregon drivers are paying $1.52, trailing only California, Hawaii and Nevada.

At the Fairgrounds Texaco station in Grants Pass, prices were a relatively inexpensive $1.49 a gallon for regular unleaded, and if there was a boycott going on, nobody could tell.

We had six motor homes at once in here this morning, said owner Randy Harris. Personally, I don't think it will affect the oil companies unless people quit driving the whole day. I don't think anybody is going to walk to work.

Added customer Denise Troxel, whose tab for filling up her pickup came to $42.50: When you need gas, you need gas. What are you going to do?