POLITICS
05/25/2010 02:21 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

D.C. Gasoline Discount Event Canceled for 'Political Reasons'

Bad news for Memorial Day weekend road-trippers: a 54 cents per gallon gasoline discount planned at two Capitol Hill Exxon stations for today has been canceled due to unspecified "political reasons."

In an effort to draw attention to a tariff on imported ethanol, the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) scheduled a one-day gasoline discount at two stations on Capitol Hill to provide local residents a preview of how Americans across the country could save money at the pump if Congress ends this import tax later this year. The tariff, UNICA believes, strongly incentivizes American ethanol, which eliminates market competition and allows American ethanol providers to jack up their prices.

A UNICA spokesperson said the event was also intended to educate drivers about the benefits of sugarcane ethanol, a clean, renewable fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and could help the United States cut its dependence on oil from the Middle East. But a week after approving the event and less than 24 hours after allowing promotional banners to be hung on its property, the Capitol Petroleum Group abruptly canceled the promotion, citing "political reasons."

Joel Velasco, UNICA's chief representative in North America, said it was unclear why CPG canceled the event after initially approving it.

"Your guess is as good as mine," he said. "We think consumers win when there's competition in the marketplace, and we wanted to remind drivers that there are things that can be done to incentivize more competition. But apparently we're not gonna be allowed to give away gas."

While CPG would not explain their decision to UNICA or the gas station owners, they told HuffPost yesterday afternoon: "It is CPG's policy that promotions urging political action are not appropriate activities to be held at CPG owned stations, and for this reason CPG management did not approve the planned promotion and will not permit it to take place on any CPG property."

UNICA is now planning to give away a substantial number of gasoline cards instead on a first-come, first-served basis. They said details of the promotion will be announced as soon as the plans are finalized.

"UNICA is still committed to making summer vacation a little less expensive and is working on details to make this discount a reality for Washingtonians," Velasco said.