Tired of paying through the nose, Americans try praying at the pump
by Karin ZeitvogelMon May 5, 12:22 AM ET
At a Shell gas station in Washington, Rocky Twyman and an unusual group of activists were mad as hell about soaring fuel prices.
“Last week, this station was 3.51 dollars. Now it’s practically 3.60. So it’s gone up nine cents in one week,” Twyman said as he pumped five dollars’ worth of gas into his thirsty American car.
“Someone’s making a lot of money and it’s really, really wrong,” added Twyman, who founded the Prayer at the Pump movement last week to seek help from a higher power to bring down fuel prices, because the powers in Washington haven’t.
The half-dozen activists — Twyman, a former Miss Washington DC, the owner of a small construction company and two volunteers at a local soup kitchen — joined hands, bowed their heads and intoned a heartfelt prayer.
“Lord, come down in a mighty way and strengthen us so that we can bring down these high gas prices,” Twyman said to a chorus of “amens”.
“Prayer is the answer to every problem in life… We call on God to intervene in the lives of the selfish, greedy people who are keeping these prices high,” Twyman said on the gas station forecourt in a neighborhood of Washington that, like many of its residents, has seen better days.
“Lord, the prices at this pump have gone up since last week. We know that you are able, that you have all the power in the world,” he prayed, before former beauty queen Rashida Jolley led the group in a modified version of the spiritual, “We Shall Overcome”.
“We’ll have lower gas prices, we’ll have lower gas prices…” they sang.
At the weekend, Twyman had led a group of around 200 people in prayer at pumps in San Francisco, where gas is touching the four-dollars-a-gallon mark.
On Thursday, US lawmakers and experts at a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill painted a grim picture of how Americans are being hammered by record fuel costs and the steepest food price spikes in 17 years.
“We pay more to drive to the supermarket, and then get hit with higher prices when we get there,” Senator Charles Schumer told the hearing.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said Americans have been forced by soaring prices to go on a “recession diet”.
“In some areas of the country, people are paying four dollars for both a gallon (3.79 liters) of milk and a gallon of gas,” and are substituting meats, fish and vegetables with lower-cost pasta and canned foods, Maloney said.
On the forecourt of the Washington Shell station, retiree Rufus Simpkin was feeling the pain at the pump and praying for relief.
“I’m having to spend much more on gas, and I am retired,” he told AFP.
“It is really hitting me and my family hard.”
Marcia Frazier-Foster was filling up her car for the long drive home to Laurel, a suburb from which she commutes 35 miles (53 kilometers), four days a week to work in a Washington soup kitchen, serving a hot meal to scores of men who have fallen on tough times.
“The cost of food has gone up… quantities we get from the food bank have gone down. The cost at the gas station has gone up and that means I spend more money to get here,” she said after joining the prayer for gas prices to come down.
“Yet I don’t see anyone in power really concerned about the high gas prices — President Bush doesn’t even think we’re in a recession,” she lamented.
Americans have turned to prayer because the earthly powers-that-be don’t seem to give a hoot, said Judy Dugan, a research director at Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit group based in California.
She described Prayer at the Pump as “the ultimate Hail Mary.”
“It’s what you do when you feel you have no one on your side, and they certainly don’t have the US government on their side on this,” Dugan said.
At the Shell station, Twyman had dire words of warning for those who are raking in profits from high gas prices.
“Woe be unto those people that are really greedy and taking advantage of American families,” he proclaimed from his pump pulpit.
“These prices will come down, just like the walls of Jericho came down in the Bible,” he said, as another chorus of amens punctuated the sound of cash flowing out of the gas pumps.