Mutant Gas Alert!

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by Whatsblem the Pro

In news that will surely upset those who fondly imagine Larry Harvey as Moses handing the Ten Principles down to the Chosen, the Org is testing the waters to see if a Black Rock City gas station might be a workable idea.

Yesterday, the following e-mail was sent out to registered Mutant Vehicle owners:

Greetings BRC licensed vehicle owners.

To best support the Burning Man community in ways that make sense, we are researching the possibility of having fuel available for BRC licensed vehicles on playa this year. To fully research this, we need some information from you on your potential fuel needs. We only need you to fill out the survey if you are planning on bringing your vehicle to be licensed by the BRC DMV on playa in 2013.

In brief, we are looking at the possibility of a system where you would prepay for credit that you would then use on playa via some sort of token or card to fill your Mutant Vehicle or Disabled permitted vehicle. This would not be for other vehicles at the event. No money would be exchanged on playa. You would possibly be able to add more credit to the system if you run out on playa, and we are also researching options on how to handle unused funds. The exact process is still pending. Prices would be comparable to or possibly less than fuel in Gerlach.

Please fill out the following survey on the link below so we can assess fuel needs. We recommend you fill out the survey using a full computer and not a smart phone or tablet.

Respondents were asked to provide their names, e-mail addresses, names of vehicles, and an estimate of how many gallons of fuel they expect to use on the playa. A space for additional comments was also provided.

It’s silly to decry this as a potential violation of the principle of decommodification. . . or is it?

In one sense, it definitely is silly. The decommodification of the playa began as a utilitarian thing, not some holy-joe attempt at purifying our spirits by freeing us from the evil bonds of Mammon. I’ve written about sacred cows and the origins of on-playa decommodification before; if it lacks a profit motive, this idea of providing a gas station for Mutant Vehicle owners only conflicts with the decommodification principle if you’re some kind of trash-eating zealot who is so allergic to capitalism that touching a dollar bill would make you break out in open sores.

On the other hand, if there’s a profit motive here, then what we’re looking at is the Org testing the waters for the establishment of future revenue streams. With Burning Man going non-profit, the founders and other Org players who have been raking in millions of dollars from ticket sales each year will soon see the primary source of their great wealth turn to dust and ashes. . . and money is known to be a powerfully addictive substance.

We should all recognize that a gas station would be a useful, handy thing to provide for Mutant Vehicle owners that would reduce waste and fuel transport inefficiencies. However, we should also be aware that BRC already has a gas station, run by DPW. Traditionally, if you want to gas up your art car there, you pay in beer. Lots of beer. It’s possible that the Org is simply trying to stem that flow. We should also recognize, however, that with all the money pouring into their coffers and all the expense and labor of building and operating a Mutant Vehicle, it might be reasonable to expect the Org to provide MV drivers with gasoline for free, or at least at cost.

Now let’s look at that e-mail again:

Prices would be comparable to or possibly less than fuel in Gerlach.

Well there’s the rub right there. If fuel prices at an on-playa gas station are comparable to retail prices in Gerlach, then someone’s going to be turning a profit on this. If the prices are less than retail in Gerlach, how much less will they be? If it’s higher than at-cost, we again must wonder who’s raking it in.

Who's pumping you?

Who’s pumping you?

Given that the Org has profited so mightily on an event that has been mainly dreamed up and built by volunteer labor and paying attendees, it seems par for the course but still a bit of a slap in the face on several levels to watch them cynically size us up for further fleecing, if in fact that’s what they’re doing. . . and make no mistake: whether or not this is an example of a fleecing in the offing, we can be sure that now that the Org is going non-profit, ancillary businesses controlled by insiders will be popping up like mushrooms on a cow pat. It’s going to be George Bush’s great-grandfather selling rifle straps and stocks to the army all over again. To deny this is to deny that the people running the Org are greedy in proportion with the wealth they’ve already attained, and that would be giving them credit where none is due; they are, after all, human beings, with all the ethical frailty being human implies.

Oh, and speaking of credit:

You would possibly be able to add more credit to the system if you run out on playa, and we are also researching options on how to handle unused funds.

I’ll bet. At this point, it’s hard to say what this gas station idea truly portends. . . but we do know from long experience that basic accounting is extremely difficult for the Org, even though they find advanced game theory so easy.

All levity aside, let’s hope Mutant Vehicle owners benefit from this without funneling more undeserved wealth into the hands of people who are already undeservedly wealthy.

18 comments on “Mutant Gas Alert!

  1. Pingback: And The New Thing To Buy On The Playa Is… | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. I’m with you Pottsie – for me this is more about principal than the money. The non-profit/LLC (whatever) isn’t liable if you blow yourself up with a styrofoam cooler full of gasoline anyway – read your ticket. Wasn’t Burning Man about trying to do things thing differently? Not always solving problems the way you would during “real life”; also known as – not always the way that makes the most sense?

    I’m sorry to say RSR (Radical Self Reliance) disappeared with general acceptance of plug-and-play camps. As the event evolves maybe so should the revered “Ten Principals”, perhaps we can be honest and rename them “Nine & One-half Allusions”.

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  3. Pilots buy gas at the airport all the time, this would just be an extension of that. I think it’s a good idea as long as it isn’t a real gas station.

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  4. Radical. Self. Reliance….. Planning. Bringing. Building. Running out. Accepting gifts from your neighbors. Giving gifts. Eating bacon. Eating other peoples bacon. Going without power on day 12 because you effed up. Adapting to the moment. Learning. Burning Man. We DO NOT need another gas station. Where is the line? Maybe we should start Black Rock Grocers? We can set up all sorts of pre-paid luxuries and justify how ok it is but………… This idea is a pollution of our ideals. I say we draw the line at Ice and Coffee.

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  5. if there were no ethical “cover” for this cash cow to graze — they wouldn’t dare (premature conflagration cost them lots of both money & goodwill) — the unwritten twelfth law (radical self-aggrandizement) will soon supersede the rest — well — maybe not equally unspoken eleventh law (“radical self-absorption) which makes this kind of clueless thinking possible…

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  6. Where does sit say the Bmorg is the entity gonna be selling fuel? I’d think to avoid all sorts of liability, it would be contracted out.

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    • I don’t know why they’d contract it out, since they already have a DPW gas station that has in the past accepted checks from some MV owners. It’s not even clear if they’re talking about a second gas station, or just a credit system for MV owners who want to use the DPW fuel dump.

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  7. Better than all of us hauling multiple 5 gallon cans. The ‘profit’ on gas at your local station is a couple of cents per gallon.
    I suggested to Wally that they consider hauling “Rec-90″ non-ethanol gas which is better for the motors in storage and onboard generators ( ethanol destroys gaskets and hoses )
    Peace….)’( “Playa Penetrator” MV

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  8. Would not the org selling gas at more than cost kinda be like selling a ticket for more than face, just sayin’? Generally I like the idea…..

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  9. The Org went non-profit voluntarily, and still delivers as much or more revenue to the LLC, so I have a hard time believing the idea that they miss the money, which still flows to them. The even promoter, organizer, what ever you call it, is non-profit. The LLC still receives fees from the Organizer. Cash flow non-interruptus. I think they want it to cut down on big m.v.s hauling fuel in craptastic burner engineered containers.

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  10. I’d prefer a hotel be built on the playa … complete with all the fine amenities … which I will pre-pay thus conforming to the Ten Principles. We can always find loopholes, can’t we?

    Seriously, it is *all* a profit motive until the fuel fills the vehicle tank. Wake up.

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  11. Being able to fuel up using a pre-paid gas card would get rid of quite a few dicey fuel storage areas in the city.Giving handicapped vehicles access to fuel could save them that trip to Brunos’ Shell station and all that it entails.

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  12. I see it as a great idea as long as we paying cost price. yes only register Art-Car will be able to use the service, if the org buy more fuel they will get it with a discount price.
    I see it like the ice service, it needed and if the org will give it to us for good price I see it as beautiful and I will be grateful.
    thanks for sharing. I love Burners.me,

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