Religion Skepticism/critical thinking

Jesus loves you! And he’ll show you just how much he loves you by lowering gas prices!

Back in the spring, when gas prices shot up to well over $4 a gallon in many markets, a level from which they’ve fallen back somewhat over the last month or so, there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Never before in U.S. history had gasoline cost so much, and we were starting to get a taste of what our European friends have had to put up with for a very long time. But just a taste. After all, I remember from my trip to the U.K. last August that gas was around £1 per liter, which at the time translated to over $7.50 a gallon. For those who lived in isolated areas or had low incomes, this spike in gas prices was a disaster, especially for truckers, cab drivers, and others whose jobs involved driving. On the other hand, I had little sympathy at all for all the yuppies who had bought enormous SUVs during the years when gasoline was cheap.

Naturally, when faced with a disaster of such proportions, some Americans, being the highly religious people that they are, had the perfect response. Indeed, to them it was the only response possible. No, it wasn’t to purchase more fuel-efficient cars (although some did start to drive less). No, it wasn’t to lobby the government to support the development of alternative fuels and to increase the CAFE standard. No, it was to Pray at the Pump for lower gas prices. And now that gas prices have come down around 20-30 cents from their historic highs, perish forbid that the fall in prices at the pump or the recent fall in price for a barrel of crude oil had anything to do with the economic principle of supply and demand or the recent strengthening of the dollar. Oh, no, it was clearly Jesus at work:

A prayer group in Washington DC is claiming the credit for the recent sharp drop in the US price of petrol.

Rocky Twyman, 59, a veteran community campaigner, started Pray At The Pump meetings at petrol stations in April.

Since then, the average price of what the US calls gasoline has fallen from more than $4 a gallon to $3.80.

“We don’t have anybody else to turn to but God,” Mr Twyman told the BBC. “We have to turn these problems over to God and not to man.”

Indeed, Twyman goes even further:

The recent dip in prices, he says, is proof of divine intervention.

“Prayer is the answer to every problem in life,” said Twyman, founder of the Pray at the Pump Movement, whose followers huddle around gas pumps and ask the Almighty to lower gasoline prices. “If the whole country keeps on praying, we can bring down prices even more, to even less than $2.”

Of course, gas prices are extremely volatile, and it was only to be expected that after such a major spike in prices there would be a gradual retreat from the record high prices of earlier this summer. Indeed, it seems to be a bit of a pattern the last few years, where gas prices seem to spike in late spring and early summer and then gradually fall again. Of course, they never seem to fall quite back to where they were before the spike, leaving an overall long term trend of relentlessly increasing prices. This time appears to be no exception, although for the moment the AAA is anticipating at least some further declines in the price of gasoline. Thus, Pray at the Pump was guaranteed to appear to succeed, at least in the short term. In the long term, it will be interesting to see how Twyman reacts the next time gasoline prices spike. And you know they will spike again at some point. It’s inevitable. My guess is that it will happen sometime next spring. (If I’m right, you can call me psychic.)

My other guess is that Twyman will at some point in the next few months, as gas prices continue to decline a bit more more and then level off for a while, declare victory in Jesus’ name and stop his Pray at the Pump effort. Then, when prices inevitably spike again (as I mentioned before, probably next spring), he’ll view it as “proof” that he stopped his effort too soon. He’ll then have to start up Pray at the Pump again–until the next time gas prices decline.

If Twyman’s smart, he could keep this routine up for years.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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