By jeanne starmack
Remember when gas was $1.84 a gallon?
For 100 Youngstown-area drivers, it seems like just yesterday.
They managed to be the first 100 in a long line of cars that snaked toward the pumps at the Big Apple convenience store on McGuffey Road on the East Side on Monday.
Across the street, a rival store was selling gas for $3.26 a gallon.
Starting at noon, though, two organizations called Morning in America and New American Energy Opportunity Foundation were comping the Big Apple to sell 15 gallons of gas at $1.84 a gallon to the first 100 drivers who could jockey into position.
The organizations were trying to make a point: They believe that President Barack Obama’s energy policies have caused gas prices to go up since he took office in January 2009. At that time, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $1.84, said John Davis of Morning in America.
That prices have climbed since then, contended Davis, is the fault of Obama’s energy policies.
His group is not really campaigning for Romney, he said. It’s nonpartisan and gets funding from individuals, organizations and businesses, not political action committees, he said.
The point it was trying to prove with the gas giveaway, he said, was that a president’s administration has a direct impact on the price of gas.
Putting money into green-energy technology rather than drilling and pipelines was a mistake, he asserted.
“In this administration, we’ve spent $500 billion on green-technology companies that have gone bankrupt and reduced the number of [drilling] leases on federal land by 50 percent,” Davis said.
He also said the administration has not been supportive enough of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial method of extracting natural gas from shale formations several thousand feet underground.
“They want to use more and more natural gas to propel our vehicles,” he said, adding that he knows environmentalists say hydraulic fracturing harms the environment, but believes there is no proof.
In the lines at the pumps, energy policies of presidents weren’t first on drivers’ minds. They wanted to get the cheap gas. When they stopped to think about it, however, several told The Vindicator that the gift of less pricey petrol was not going to buy Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney their vote.
“Regardless of who gets in, make this country like the good old days,” said Albert McQueen of Warren, who remained an undecided voter.
“I don’t know yet,” said Dan Leroy of Boardman. “They both have good points.” Leroy also said, however, that more drilling will be a backward step for the country, which should focus on alternative green energy.
“I’m still voting for Obama,” said a Campbell woman who didn’t want to give her name.
Jennifer McGill of Champion said she disagrees that high gas prices are Obama’s fault. Congress and other factors are to blame, she said.
Youngstown resident Leonard Rogers wasn’t impressed by the political argument.
“They give a couple dollars of cheap gas,” he said. “That doesn’t mean [Romney] will be a better president than Obama.” It’s better to consider all the policies that make up an administration, he said, rather than just one.
Anthony Roberson of Youngstown had heard by word-of-mouth about the cheap gas and had a spot secured in the line.
Once he found out what the point of the giveaway was though, he shook his head.
“Right before the election, [Romney’s] trying to get it in,” he said. “Thanks for the gas,” he said, but as for Romney, he added, no thanks.
Roberson’s an opponent of hydraulic fracturing.
At some point, drivers had to be turned away. Everyone also had to go into the store to pre-pay. Even so, said clerk Nicole Hoover, the event went off smoothly.
“It was calm,” said store manager Vicky Culver. “I think it’s good for the community.”
The event even gave Sean Yun, who bought the store three months ago, an idea.
He’s thinking now he’ll have a cheap-gas event at Thanksgiving and Christmas, even though it will come out of his own pocket this time.
“I’m trying to help my neighborhood,” he said.