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Pumping a message to fuel sales

Marketplace Staff Feb 12, 2007

Pumping a message to fuel sales

Marketplace Staff Feb 12, 2007

A design with symbols of 9/11 on an awning at the Terror-Free Oil station in Omaha, Neb.

A station message on the gasoline pumps.

KAI RYSSDAL: The nationwide average price of gas this week is just under 2.24 a gallon. A bit cheaper, a bit more expensive depending on where you are.

In Omaha, Nebraska, there’s a new service station where prices are running higher than others in the area. Maybe that’s because customers are getting a drop of foreign policy with their regular unleaded. The station’s part of a chain selling what it calls “terror-free oil.” Hoping to convince Americans to stop buying crude from the Middle East.

It could be coming soon to a city near you, as Avishay Artsy reports.

AVISHAY ARTSY: This gas station is certainly an eye-catcher. Red, white, and blue signs display the station’s name in bold letters: Terror-Free Oil. Located in an affluent west Omaha suburb, the station has been drawing attention and customers.

Joanne Lathrop is a stay-at-home mom who heard about it on the local news.

JOANNE LATHROP: It’s nice to send a message that, if you’re not gonna do what we want, or if you’re gonna hurt people or do things that aren’t within reason, then we’re just not gonna support you. You know, hit ’em in the paycheck and hopefully things will change.

Lathrop says she doesn’t mind paying a little more for gas in order to make a statement.

LATHROP: I’ve seen right around 2.17 and this was 2.19. So for two cents difference I thought it was still worth it.

Terror-Free Oil plans to open gas stations in every major city in the U.S. Spokesman Joe Kaufman

says Omaha came first, because the Midwest would be receptive to the idea that buying Middle Eastern oil is undercutting the war on terror.

JOE KAUFMAN: We are upset because we believe that we are financing our own destruction here in the United States by giving money to our enemies abroad. And we think that the companies and the American public should be much more conscious about that.

It’s not a new idea. Remember those TV ads back in 2002 bashing SUVs? It was a campaign by a liberal coalition called Americans for Fuel Efficient Cars.

TV AD NARRATION: I helped hijack an airplane. I helped blow up a nightclub. So what if it gets 11 miles to the gallon. I gave money to a terrorist training camp in a foreign country. It makes me feel safe. I helped our enemies develop weapons of mass destruction.

Despite efforts to beef up domestic production, imported oil still accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. consumption. It’s that reliance on foreign oil that has critics shaking their heads about the idea behind the terror-free oil project.

One of those critics is author and oil expert Robert Bryce


ROBERT BRYCE: The trends of energy interdependence are growing and are inexorable. And it is not just in crude and gasoline and jet fuel, It’s also in natural gas. So this concept that somehow we can direct our dollars to one country or another country when it comes to a global commodity like oil, is just simply hogwash.

In fact, Terror-Free Oil purchases its gas from Sinclair Oil

. A spokesman for Sinclair says most of their oil comes from the U.S. and Canada, but some is bought on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where oil from all over the world is traded.

Terror-Free’s Kaufman acknowledges their station is most likely selling some oil from the Middle East. But the main point, he says, is simply to get the message across.

In Omaha, I’m Avishay Artsy for Marketplace.

The cash-register message to customers.

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