Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pump Your Own Gas? Forget about It!

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Pump Your Own Gas? Forget about It!

Article excerpt

Say what you will about Governor Christie and Senate President Steve Sweeney, they sure know how to sidestep a political black hole even when it resembles the kind of pothole that anybody with a shovel could fix.

How else to explain why the governor declined comment on legislation that would allow drivers to pump their own gas for the first time in 66 years? Why else would Sweeney refuse to even post a bill permitting road warriors to do something our counterparts have been doing for decades in every other state except Oregon?

Although some consider the ban on self-serve gasoline a Jersey joke, those at the political helm in Trenton recognized what road warriors like Maureen Covone have known all along.

"Jersey girls don't pump gas," said the Paramus reader.

Despite the popular T-shirt, that phrase applies to Jersey boys, too.

"You risk smelling like gasoline for the rest of the day," said Glen Rock reader Lawrence Lipman, "and the odor transfers to the sandwich you eat for lunch."

"I'd hate to see one of the last low-income jobs lost by the poor guys who now have jobs," added Wayne's Sam Jarkesy.

These folks aren't alone. A 2012 Public Mind poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University found 63 percent of motorists favored keeping the ban. The percentage among young drivers and women was even greater. In an unscientific Road Warrior poll, readers favored it, too, by a 5-1 ratio.

"It's one of the good things about living in New Jersey," explained Ramsey's Douglas Parker. "Let's not kill a good thing."

As these folks see it, requiring somebody else to perform the messy tasks of unscrewing gas caps, jamming nozzles into openings and watching numbers spin on a gauge is deserving of the same sort of Garden State bragging rights usually accorded Bruce Springsteen, the Statue of Liberty and juicy Jersey tomatoes. "And New Jersey has the best boardwalks, too," added Robert Scott.

When he's not jogging on the Asbury Park boardwalk, Scott, an associate economics professor at Monmouth University, specializes in the Garden State's unique dynamics. His research once measured the socioeconomic impact of pump-your-own gas bans.

"At first, I thought it was ridiculous," Scott said. "But now that I live here, I think it's great."

Here are highlights from his 2007 study published in Challenge, an economics journal:

* Bans offer significant benefits for the disabled and elderly who have trouble manipulating pumps, a group that is growing well beyond the current 20 percent of the population as Baby Boomers continue to reach retirement.

* Gasoline thefts are substantial in self-service states -- nearly $2,000 per station annually, according to a 2004 study. But they're negligible in New Jersey and Oregon.

* Drivers in self-service states tend to damage cars and the environment by overfilling tanks and causing fires and explosions. …

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