Record Heatwave Shows Issues With Oregon’s Ban on Pumping Your Own Gas

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Summer is usually a fun time to be outside, especially on the Pacific coastline. This June, a devastating heatwave hit the Pacific Northwest causing not only vehicles to overheat but many deaths.
Oregon approved a temporary two-day suspension that gave its gas station attendants who work outside a break from the heat. This move required residents to pump their own gas and revealed issues with the original law.
A silver car parked at a gas station with red overhead lighting at night.
Most Oregon residents have never had to pump their own gas

Oregon's gas pumping law

Oregon is one of only two states that require a gas attendant to pump your gas for you, according to Car and Driver. The law was introduced in 1951 when gas-station pumps had fewer safety measures.
In the 1970s, self-service became more widespread because of gas shortages, but the Oregon law still remained. Over the years, some changes have been implemented to allow exceptions for remote areas and tribal lands.
The ban on pumping your own gas was temporarily suspended on June 28 and June 29 to protect gas station attendants from a historic heatwave. This was difficult for most Oregon residents who never had to pump their own gas and didn’t know how to.

The extreme heat was dangerous for gas station attendants

The June heatwave saw temperatures peak at 115 degrees. The average temperature for this time of year is usually around 70 degrees, as reported by Car and Driver. Many homes in the area don’t have adequate air conditioning since the temperatures are usually moderate.
Last week, The Guardian reported that the heat-related deaths in Oregan have reached 116. Many businesses were forced to close. Portland opened cooling centers and teams were dispatched to check on the residents that were most at risk.
During the heatwave, Gov. Kate Brown approved a temporary allowance for Oregon residents to pump their own gas. This lasted for two days and kept gas station attendants safe since they weren’t required to stand outside.
Many residents don’t know how to pump their own gas and might have just waited in their homes until the heat became more bearable. Self-service gas stations typically reduce wait times and prices. The impact of the heatwave highlights the weaknesses of Oregon’s gas pumping law.

What we learned from the historic heatwave

This temporary suspension gave Oregon residents an opportunity to learn how to pump their own gas. The record heatwave prompted research into what caused it. A new analysis on the fatalities related to the recent heatwave found that the extreme temperature would have been "virtually impossible without human-caused climate change."
Residents of Oregon might have to prepare for similar extreme temperatures in the future. As we transition to green vehicles to try to combat climate change, it’ll be important for states to consider laws and regulations that support them.
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