Still another contest: What does "gas war" mean?

Okay, folks! I’ve got another contest for you. As usual, the winner wins the distinction of being the winner.

Here is the puzzle: What do you think Americans mean when they talk about a gas war?

My guess (mind the pun ;-)) is that the gas war in the US has to do with the long queues at the petrol stations during the Hurricane Katrina period? Or maybe it’s a variation of the oil war that is going in Iraq?

Nope. It’s neither one of those things.

By the way, look up on the Internet the proportion of oil the US gets from Iraq or the Middle East in general. It’s a very small percentage. Most of our oil comes from our own production or from Latin America. We’re not in there for oil, contrary to the lie that’s been spread. However, French firms had approximately $20 billion in illegal oil contracts with the Hussein regime (in violation of UN sanctions), and Iraqi records now show that Saddam Hussein’s regime was bribing people at high levels in the French and Russian governments, and in the UN, with vouchers for millions of dollars of oil (the vouchers could be sold on the open market). For example, the head of the UN Oil for Food program was bribed with over a million dollars’ worth of such vouchers. So it’s safe to say that oil was a big reason that Jacques Chirac and some other world leaders wanted Saddam to stay in power. Reality is always more complicated, and often uglier, than the simple ideas activists feed to us. (The current genocide in Sudan is partly to clear oil fields for customers in China and Europe, which is one reason you don’t see anyone doing much about it.)

Anyway, that’s off the subject. I’m still waiting for the answer to what a gas war is. Hint: It’s not a real war with guns, blood and all that.

Hi Jamie,
The post above is mine, I had forgotten to log in and appeared as a guest, so I’ll copy my post here. Sorry!

“Could it be that the American government is using part of their national oil reserve in order to keep the oil prices in America low. This means that whenever the oil prices are too high the American government is not importing oil but it is using the oil from their reserve and that is how it keeps the prices down.”


Hi Jamie, what does the word “gas” stand for in the term “gas war”? Most of the search results in Google refer to a real war that involves natural energy resources. If the word war does mean war in its original sense, what else does it stand for then? The phrase also reminds me of another one: War on terrorism which I think is a contradiction in itself because you cannot eliminate terrorism through war. On the contrary, war will fuel even more terrorism. This might really be off topic now but then again it’s also connected to the initial question I suppose. Still, I’m curious to hear what the answer is and also how many Americans would know this phrase.

Okay. I don’t think anyone is going to get it.

This is a gas war: You have an intersection with gasoline stations on at least three corners, often four. Maybe the price of gasoline at that intersection has hovered around $2.50 per gallon for a while. Suddenly, the owner of the Mobil station decides he wants to attract customers away from the other stations, so he drops his price to $2.48 a gallon. Then the Shell, BP and Sunoco station owners notice he is getting business away, so they lower their price to $2.48 a gallon also. So the Mobil owner lowers his price to $2.45 a gallon. The others do the same, and this way the price continues to spiral down and down until it reaches a point where nobody is making enough money. At some point, they all get tired and raise their prices to some profitable level again. In the meantime, the consumers have benefited from the mad competition.


Bit of a disappointment after all that! Surely this is what business is all about - competition.


Nicole, you need to check the historical record. Sadly, war can stop terrorism, and at many points in history it has. One of the reasons for the start of the world’s Colonial Period was that governments of various principalities, such as one in Libya, were sponsoring terrorist seizure of ships. It eventually got so bad that the major European powers and the US attacked the sponsoring countries and colonized them, and it took care of the problem for quite a while. In a later replay of the same thing, in the 1970s and 1980s, the government of Libya was sponsoring terrorists who blew up passenger jets, bombed European airports, nightclubs, etc. Once the connection was established, President Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya, and after that they caused only minimal trouble.

Remember that the Europeans had many, many chit-chats with Mr. Hitler, but he just got worse and worse. Only a war stopped him. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that terrorists are rational people who think like ordinary middle-class Americans and Europeans and respond to love and negotiation. On the contrary, they have a special type of sick psychology, like that of street criminals, that responds only to strength and fear, and if you talk to them instead, they perceive you as a weak target, and it encourages them.

Terrorists usually claim to have a “good reason” for what they do, but wife-beaters or other explosive people also seem to have a “good reason” for what they do. However, if you observe these people, they usually make up the reason in order to justify the violence they want to do anyway. Fix the problem they say caused them to be violent, and they just think of another reason. Talking doesn’t work. You have to arrest them.

Alan, you might have chuckled or else thrown up your hands if you’d been in a business administration course my brother took once. There was a man in the class who had spent all his life in government, and he couldn’t be made to understand that businesses have to make a profit. He’d argue and argue that businesses don’t exist to make money, but to provide a service to the public. Needless to say, the guy had a lot of trouble in the course.

Hi Jamie,

I really must support Nicole on this when she says:

War on terrorism which I think is a contradiction in itself because you cannot eliminate terrorism through war. On the contrary, war will fuel even more terrorism.

Let me utter a loud and clear Hear! Hear!. In response you roam through Libya, Hitler, street criminals, wife beaters and even talk of arresting people. I think we really ought to concentrate on the difference between terrorism and aggression. Sure if you bomb the living daylights out of all those who choose murder to justify their beliefs and also at the same time you manage to kill innocent bystanders, the terrorism may stop for a while. Believe me I have no sympathy and have no truck with murderers (why grace them with the title terrorists?) who fly planes into office blocks or nearer to where I live blow themselves up in the London underground. These individuals have already eliminated themselves and so they cannot be bombed again. It used to be a maxim for Britain in the 19th century to ‘send a gunboat’ to deal with a problem along the lines: ‘That’ll teach them’ But surely we have to move on . Why do people offer their lives as some kind of oblation to their beliefs? Isn’t it worth looking at the reasons before sending off the next gunboat or the next bomber?


You would think that, by now, mankind would have evolved and learnt that violence is never a solution, never. It might sometimes look as if it can put an end to a conflict, but what it does instead is generate more hate, which, in its turn, is the best fuel for more violence. Thus it keeps the fire of war still smouldering in the ashes and, eventually, burning for ever.

Sadly, a solution to this vicious circle remains to be found. Now, this will sound like a Sunday sermon or as if I’ve gone all mystic on you (I’ve missed Palm Sunday’s Mass, maybe that’s why!), but as long as we keep on believing that we are better than our ‘neighbour’ (even criminals are our brothers and sisters!), our futile quest for world peace will never end. Even more sadly, all these words are like tears in the sea…

We have to agree to disagree on this.

The reason I wander through terrorists, Hitler, street criminals and wife-beaters is that they share a similar mentality, and the same measures are ineffective at stopping them.

One very common misconception is the belief that terrorists, criminals and mad dictators are some kind of hurt bunnies, and that they are doing what they do because of some sort of “root causes” that the dominant social class, society or country needs to feel guilty about and fix. The idea is that if you simply found out what this “root cause” is, talked to the guy, and improved yourself, then the killer would suddenly be happy and walk away a peaceful man. After all, wouldn’t you and I do the same thing in his situation? Unfortunately, though, history and direct experience show that these people don’t think like others. They take all attempts at “understanding” as a sign of weakness, and this leads to more violence. And often the “root causes” that rational people identify are not the real reasons they do things.

We went through this with street crime in the US. At some point in the 1960s, people started to believe that crime was brought about by the “root causes” of racism, economic deprivation, and even such abstract things as “hopelessness”. It was decided that punishing criminals was not an effective way to reduce crime. So they gave lighter sentences to criminals, gave them money, had social workers talking to them, etc., and in all this lenience, crime increased to outrageous proportions, even though the “root causes” had been dealt with very effectively. It turns out that there are always people who, for their own reasons, will be criminals, and they respond to punishment, and not to reason. We’re back to punishing criminals, and crime is reducing again. At the same time, crime is increasing to unseen levels in some European countries where they have now taken on the beliefs Americans did in the '60s.

A Polish woman in my classes declared that war is never justified. I asked her what is a better solution, and she said, “The people can talk to each other.” I asked, “Why didn’t the Polish people have a talk with Hitler?” She had no answer for this and even laughed at the absurdity of it. Hitler had the same mentality that terrorists and street criminals do, and talking to him only made him more aggressive.

Dealing with terrorists simply as criminal individuals doesn’t work either. What are the chances that an 11-year-old girl or a housewife will be so expert in ballistics as to know how to make an explosive belt, and would be acting on her own? There is an organization behind them, and the leaders who are sending them out there don’t do the dying themselves. These leaders and their “armies” have to be dealt with in various ways, and reasoning with them virtually never works, because of their “special” mentality.

Wars are horrible, and no one wants them. Even soldiers and generals don’t want them. There are always civilian deaths. The difference is that terrorist groups set out specifically with the purpose of killing civilians. Western armies do not. There is also the problem that some groups, such as Cuban-backed revolutionaries in Central America lager themselves in the homes of civilians. This is because (a) they know that legitimate armies will try not to kill civilians, so they are a bit protected in this situation, and (b) if the legitimate army attacks their location and some innocent civilians are killed, then they can use this as propaganda. More recently, Saddam’s forces were putting truckloads of school children in between the truckloads of soldiers who were shooting at coalition troops. Same thing going on there.

And what if the terrorists can’t be rationalized with just because their ideas are completely nutty and have no connection to reality? Read a lot of the translations of what these groups tell their own people in their media, and see how you think you could reason with them.

I think the point has been reached when I have to speak out against what is becoming a constant criticism of what you refer to as European countries and a constant glorification of what happens in America. I admit I shouldn’t have entered into this discussion in the first place but I have done so and it will be my last involvement. Please remember that this particular forum is actually headed Grammar and Vocabulary. By all means continue with the discussion but please do it in the one headed What do you want to talk about?


You’re right.

You’ll also notice, though, that a sort of simplistic villainizing of the United States goes on in the forums that is so automatic that people don’t even notice they’re doing it. Torsten made a post that was meant to show the president’s innate stupidity; other people have claimed that we do things only for oil, which any informed person knows is not true. Such criticisms are objectionable only if they are made in one particular direction, I suppose.

A Polish woman in my classes declared that war is never justified. I asked her what is a better solution, and she said, “The people can talk to each other.” I asked, “Why didn’t the Polish people have a talk with Hitler?” She had no answer for this and even laughed at the absurdity of it. Hitler had the same mentality that terrorists and street criminals do, and talking to him only made him more aggressive.

I think the idea is to learn not to misguide anybody,
Poland was encourage to stand against Hitler by France
and Great Britain, peace talks seriously peace talks were
stopped with Polish refusal to take some German conditions
of course with Europe 1939 any talks were hard and chance of success was tiny,very tiny.
In Europe 1919 , and 1929 “talks” were done wrong,
or not at all.
History repeats itself and this is what is wrong with history.