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Pumping Gas

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The end of an era here.

The Oregon House on Monday overwhelmingly approved a bill to allow self-service options at every gas station in Oregon, raising a real possibility the state will cast off its place as one of just two states still forbidding many drivers from touching the pump.

The chamber passed House Bill 2426 on a 47-10 vote, with several lawmakers saying their constituents had made it clear they’d like the legal right to fill their own tanks. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Like similar proposals over the years, HB 2426 would not put an end to the full-service fueling that most Oregonians are used to. Rather, the bill would enable all retail gas stations in the state to designate up to half of their pumps as self-serve.

Stations in Oregon’s most populous counties would still be required to employ at least one attendant, and to charge the same amount for gas from full-service pumps as they do at self-serve.

The bill would do little to change existing rules in rural Oregon counties that allow drivers there to pump their own gas. Twenty of the state’s 36 counties are designated as rural for those purposes under the proposal.

Oregon and New Jersey are the only states that still require drivers to have their fuel pumped by an attendant. The rule in Oregon goes back to 1951, and has roots in concerns about fire safety and job creation, among other things.

I have made the case before that the current Oregon law is absolutely a good thing because of job creation. There really isn’t a shortage of people willing to do this job, at least not in the urban areas. This is kind of relatively low-skill job that we have to take seriously when it comes to job creation. The idea that job creation is about some educated workforce to take us into the future completely ignores the half of the population who probably isn’t able to do such work. I would also like to point out that there is no “socially valuable” work. This is a ridiculous construction that is constantly used to justify one form of economy or another, but it is inherently meaningless, something completely up to the person saying it whether they think it is a socially valuable job by their own values. If someone wants to do a job, it is socially valuable. If no one wants to do it and everyone has better options, then OK. But this is very much not the case in Oregon.

Sorry folks, but high school dropouts do indeed need to have job opportunities. This is one of them in Oregon. And so I oppose this bill strenuously. But I am sure, as has been the case in previous conversations about this at this site, lots of commenters will revert back to the “socially valuable” argument, which is, again, bullshit.

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