Opinion: Time for NJ to Support the Right to Choose — at the Pump
It’s always been a heated debate.
Protests and angry clashes between people on both sides of the issue have erupted. Arguments at the dinner table have ruined relationships. Friendships have ended over asking whether or not it should be flat-out illegal or should New Jerseyans have the right to choose?
Well, what one West Coast state is doing could spark a heated debate in the Garden State.
Soon, Oregon lawmakers will be voting on House Bill 4151, which would allow gas stations to offer both self-service and full-service gas pumps side-by-side.
Why should we care? Oregon is the only other state in the country where it’s mostly illegal to pump your own gas. If this bill passes, New Jersey would be the only state in the country that outlaws self-serve gas.
Right now, Oregon is in this weird gray area where people can pump their own gas but only in specific areas.
Back in 2015, a bill passed where people in certain rural and tribal counties can pump their own, but only at night. That would be like saying only people in Salem County can pump their own gas between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
At the beginning of the pandemic, they also allowed Oregonians to pump their own gas. This next bill makes total sense as times progress. If only Jersey would have the thought.
Why is it that Jersey seems to be stuck in the dark ages?
Is it the fact that the government thinks we’re all cavemen and are terrified of fire? Well, technically, the answer is yes. The 1949 Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act is why we can’t have nice things… I mean pump our own gas.
The official reason was so people didn’t set themselves on fire re-fueling their vehicles. Yes, people are dumb and if you think of a million ways something can go wrong, someone will figure out how to do it even worse.
However, with every other state having pumped their own gas since they were 17 (or younger in some cases), I would hope people would be smart enough to not recreate the gasoline fight from Zoolander. And, with today’s safety measures in place, it’s not nearly as dangerous as it was back in the ’40s and ’50s.
You see, the REAL reason we can’t pump our own gas is thanks to one man: Irving Reingold.
Our own Jeff Deminski wrote about him before on New Jersey 1015. Irving Reingold was a businessman who, in 1949, had the best Jersey idea ever. He opened a 24-pump gas station megacenter on Route 17 in Hackensack.
At the time, there was a gentleman’s agreement between gas station owners to keep gas prices fixed in Jersey at around 22 cents per gallon. Reingold burst on the scene selling his self-serve gas at around 19 cents per gallon and people were immediately hooked. Sometimes there were even lines that went on for blocks just to get the cheapest gas.
Well, the other gas station owners took exception to Reingold’s move and did something right out of "The Godfather." Someone shot up his gas station.
Apparently, he had a feeling something like that would happen because he had already installed bulletproof glass.
What the gas station owners did next was set their sights on a more easily-swayed group of people - New Jersey lawmakers. One thing led to another and boom, the 1949 Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act was born.
New Jersey needs to move forward and take what Oregon is planning on doing and give gas stations the choice.
I’m not saying we need to go all self-serve like all the other states, but to give Jersey drivers a choice. If I want someone to pump my gas I should be able to. If I’m in a rush and don’t want to wait for someone to come by and fill my tank, I should be able to.
I also want to avoid having to deal with rude gas station attendants. Just a few weeks ago I had an issue where the attendant was blabbing away on his phone when I said “Fill regular please” and handed him my card. A few minutes later I looked back at the pump and the guy did premium and had the audacity to tell me I was lying. Unfortunately, at the time my dashcam wasn’t working so it was me and my passenger’s word against his and I was in a rush, but it’s the principal of the matter. If we had self-serve gas, this would’ve never happened.
So Jersey, please. Call your state representative and tell them you support the right to choose… whether to pump your own gas or not.
What do you think? Should we be allowed the option to pump our own gas in New Jersey? Let me know in the poll below and on Twitter @Bob_OnAir.