Chapter Excerpt: Gas Lines and Gasohol

Some time in the early 1970s, McDonald’s ran a commercial called “Gas Line”  (You can watch it on You Tube).  Set to jaunty music, the spot opens on what viewers of the time would instantly recognize as a familiar and depressing scene: a long train of cars lined up down the block, waiting for hours to fill their tanks with gas made suddenly scarce by a devastating Middle East oil embargo against the United States.  The resulting gas lines and ubiquitous filling station signs reading “Out of Gas” were demoralizing, but McDonald’s played the crisis for laughs.  “Excuse me,” a guy in the commercial says to his disgruntled neighbor. “Would you watch my place in line?  I’m just going to run over to McDonalds.”  The neighbor agrees, on the condition that the guy bring him back a Big Mac.  As he makes his way down the row, other gas line dwellers call out orders for fries, shakes, and Cokes.  The catchy, relentlessly upbeat McDonald’s jingle “You deserve a break today!” plays as our hero returns, fast food in hand, eliciting smiles and cheers from the hungry crowd as they happily push what appears to be an AMC Gremlin up alongside a gas pump. 

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I'm a writer based in Bloomington, IN. I'm currently writing a book about renewable energy, titled "Renewable: A Reporter's Quest to Make Sense of the Coming Revolution in Alternative Energy," for St. Martin's Press.

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