Why NJ is finally considering self-serve gas (Opinion)
For the past couple of decades, legislators in New Jersey have been afraid to pass or even propose self-service gasoline. Even though the 49 other states allow it, politicians here were for a long time of the belief that women don't want it and it was political suicide.
Here's how politics works in New Jersey and most other places in America: Lobbying.
Gasoline retailers have been having a tough time getting employees to operate their pumps, even at up to $20 an hour in some parts of our state. Many of their pumps sit idle with orange cones blocking the lanes.
This past weekend I visited a Wawa with 20 pumps and less than half were available with what seemed like only two guys working them. This new proposed law would allow for stations with at least four pumps to allow you to pump your own gas.
A little background: In 1948, an enterprising businessman in NJ opened the first-ever self-serve gas station with 24 pumps and was able to sell his gas 3 cents cheaper than his competitors (an inflation-adjusted difference of $0.35 per gallon in 2022 dollars). His competitors didn't like that and lobbied the Legislature to make pumping your own gas illegal in the state of New Jersey back in 1949.
Lobbyists for the Gasoline Retailer's Association had to find a way to overcome the idea that women wouldn't want to pump their own gas. Previous attempts to just allow it for a two-year test period had failed just a couple of years ago. So, if you get a couple of female legislators in the majority party to co-sponsor the measure, perhaps you can make some progress.
This is where we are today and why this proposed bill may have the best chance to pass.
Whether it's skillful lobbying, the New Jersey Legislature finally coming to its senses, or the fact that Steve Sweeney, a powerful force in blocking previous attempts is gone, you can take your pick. There are many people in the state, in particular women, who don't want to pump their own gasoline.
With this new law, they won't have to.
One of the two people working at a station with 20 pumps, where orange cones currently block most of them, will pump your gas, while others who don't want to wait can finally pump their own at the freed-up pumps.
Yay, everybody wins. Can we now get on with this and end the 73 years of prohibition born out of typical New Jersey corruption? I sure hope so.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy only.
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