Sunday, April 05, 2009

Papers Please

The State of Hawaii is considering a law that will, if enacted, ruin tourism. It seems that in order to stamp out uninsured drivers they're going to require identity papers and permission slips before you can purchase gasoline. Now the first thing that comes to my mind is that not every last drop of gasoline purchased goes to the automobile. If I'm riding a moped or want to mow the lawn or use the weed wacker I'm fucked. No insurance card needed for those activities so no gasoline for me. And I'm totally fucked if I want gasoline for the backup electric generator I keep for my continuous home oxygen machine.

As proposed the law does not take into consideration the rent-a-car business. I'm sure they'll be noticing this and get the law changed so that they can issue temporary cards. They will definitely make it so that only their insurance rider will count. This will kill the credit card waiver or for guys like me whose regular policy will cover a rental car. We'll be forced to tack on the $15 per day extra. Market forces will drive tourism down. Why go to Hawaii where a rent-a-car, and now an expensive rent-a-car, is a necessity when you can go elsewhere and save.

But what this will really do to kill the tourism industry is what's scary. Driving without insurance makes one an outlaw. Now it can be argued that such antisocial behavior is benign but I don't believe so. It doesn't take much for some folks to go from thinking the law doesn't apply to me to thinking they can get away with more. Tourists with rented cars are already a target for theft or worse. Now with the insurance gasoline card boondoggle they'll be even more of a target.

How this will just paint a bigger target on the tourist. Mr. Criminal wakes up one morning and thinks "Hmmm who can I rip off today?" Then he remembers there's no gas in the car. So instead of the elderly woman with a spaghetti strap purse he goes looking for a tourist with a gas card first off.

The easy fix for me the well informed traveler is to avoid Hawaii. I just hope I'm not kidnapped walking out of the Cold Stone in Santa Fe. But I digress.

The other unintended consequence of this law will be a surge in black market gasoline. From the friend asking a friend to go fill their car for them to families making sure they have at least one car insured (minimum, no collision, high deductible) and into more outright profiteering. I'll make a fortune selling gas cans full of water with just a thin layer of gasoline on top so when my customer sniffs it they'll think it's real.

Or I'll switch to a diesel car and buy a lot of #2 fuel oil "for-the-house." It's already a cheaper alternative to gasoline right now anyway.

And come on! Really? Do you want to fuck up your tourism industry even more than TSA?

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