Crony Capitalism

Don't Worry, Oregonians: Most of You Are Still Banned from Pumping Your Own Gas

A backwards, protectionist law mandating an obsolete job has been only slightly relaxed.


Gas station
MinervaStudio /

Did you hear that you can finally pump your own gas in Oregon? And people are freaking out about it?

In reality, most people still can't pump their own gas in Oregon, and it's not actually clear how much people are freaking out about it. But it makes for viral news stories mocking people's online behavior.

At the start of the new year, a law went into effect that permits some people in Oregon under some circumstances to pump their own gas rather than waiting for a gas station employee to do it for them. Oregon and New Jersey are, infamously, the only states mandating by law that gas stations employ people to pump fuel.

Oregon passed legislation loosening the rules back in May, and the change finally went into effect on January 1. KTVL News in Medford, Oregon, posted about the change on Facebook and asked people what they thought and to vote (thumbs up versus frowny-face emoji) on whether they supported the change. So far the vast majority of voters do, but some of the more inane responses have drawn news coverage of their own. Comments like this:

No! Disabled, seniors, people with young children in the car need help. Not to mention getting out of your car with transients around and not feeling safe too. This is a very bad idea. Grrr.

The commenter is being widely mocked, given that in the rest of the country has figured out a way to handle those spooky transients without demanding constant full-service gas station attendants.

But the commenter needn't fear. Oregon's laws on gas pumping are still unbelievably stupid, and she's probably still going to be sitting there at a pump waiting for somebody to perform an extremely simple, menial task for her.

The law passed in May permits self-service gas pumping only in limited circumstances. It applies only in eastern counties in Oregon with populations of less than 40,000 people, and it only applies to gas stations that aren't attached to convenience stores or retailers.

Previously such stations could permit people pump their own fuel at night, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Now they can do so at all hours, if they so choose. According to The Bulletin, some rural gas station owners didn't know the rules were changing and are not prepared to let people pump their own.

So corrupt, backward gas-station protectionism is still the order of the day in Oregon, driving up the cost of fuel and the cost of living.

Bonus links: Read how crony corruption keeps New Jersey drivers from pumping their own gas. And Oregon State economist Patrick Emerson myth-busts some dumb justifications for full-service mandates.