Friday, February 24, 2006

This is Adam Carman's original article. Thankfully, it was edited before print.

Latin American Dictator Owns Houghton Gas Station: Students Organize Protest
Guest Article by Adam Carman.

Should American college students, already strapped for cash, pay what little money they have to a gas company solely owned by a government hostile to the United States? Some of us say, no. To this end, in the following weeks, a petition will be circulating to the owners of Houghton’s only gas station to change their supplier from Citgo to Mobil, a reverse to a change they made in the past. The reason for this petition is, on the surface, a political one. Citgo is owned, solely not in part, by the government of Venezeula, whose dictator-like president, Hugo Chavez, has declared open enmity for the United States, vowing to be President Bush’s “worst nightmare.” I recognize that hyperbole is a big part of these dictators’ lives—remember Saddam Hussein—but is it fair to ask Americans, however they may personally think of President Bush, to support a left-wing thug determined to make trouble for their country? I urge everyone who reads this to look for the petition at dinners in the upcoming weeks leading up to the Break. The petition will be respectful, and will simply request the change on the basis of who the owner of Citgo is; if the owners of the gas station do not see fit to meet the request, we will take it to the next stage, meaning a boycott and public protest of the gas station. Houghton only has one gas station so we already have been denied a choice, unless we want to spend gas money to drive further, and it is unfair to have to choose between spending gas money and supporting a third world enemy. But beyond this there is an economic concern. As I drove through Allegheny and the surrounding counties the last couple weeks, I noticed a pattern. Citgo gas was routinely ten to twelve cents more expensive than all its competitors. When the Houghton gas station has one of their “gas sales” you can get a pretty good idea of what other gas stations are charging regularly, particularly Mobil. So not only are college students supporting the extremist Venezuelan government but they are paying more money for gas. If you’re anything like me, you have little money to spare yet even the money you spend driving to Fillmore or Nunda is saving you money at the pump. Of course this is an argument for the other side, who insist that as filthy Westerners we ought to pay more for the same (or inferior in the case of Fair Trade coffee) kinds of goods to assuage our consciences about being powerful and “rich.” This is not at all fair and I don’t see in the end how we are helping the “noble savages” of the Third World by encouraging them to sell us high-priced, under-quality material. Consciences are tricky things and you can’t depend on them forever. Sooner or later, people are going to wake up and say, “Why in the world are we paying so much money for this stuff?” And they’re going to stop. And the Third World peasants will be in deep trouble again. As for gas companies, I see no reason to continue to support the existence of a Citgo as the only gas station in this college town. It’s more expensive than any other, and it is supporting a very questionable cause. Taken together, I believe this is good cause for a change. I urge my fellow students to sign the petition and to demand a change. Democrat or Republican, we are all Americans, and the enemy of our country should be our enemy as well.

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