Free gas, food draws crowd for Enbridge

Ilsa Minor | Daily Press Drivers make their way into Carne’s Eco Fuels in Escanaba Tuesday during a free gas event hosted by Enbridge. During the event, which backed up traffic along Lincoln Road, drivers were given $25 worth of free gasoline, a pasty and a drink. According to Enbridge, the event aimed to draw attention to the importance of pipelines and raise awareness about the proposed Line 5 tunnel project.

ESCANABA — Traffic backed up for blocks as people tried to get free gas and food at Carnes Eco Fuels in Escanaba Tuesday.

Hand-drawn signs on neon-colored paper advertising “Free Gas” and “Free Lunch” drew cars to the station in droves for the event held by Enbridge. The energy delivery company offered anyone who stopped by $25 worth of free gasoline — pumped by Enbridge employees — a pasty from Gram’s Pasties and Dobber’s Pasties, and a beverage just for stopping by.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to bring some awareness to pipelines in general and what pipelines do, and we’re trying to raise the issue and gain some support, not only for our pipelines, but the Great Lakes tunnel project,” said Bob Lehto, area manager for Enbridge in Northern Michigan.

The proposed tunnel would place the existing twin pipelines that cross the Straits of Mackinaw inside a one-foot-thick, concrete-lined tunnel below the lakebed.

“The way we look at it is we’re making a safe pipeline even safer. Really what that does it drive the risk of any sort of release of oil into the straits right down to virtually zero and absolutely eliminates the risk of an anchor strike from a passing vessel,” said Lehto.

The pipeline project has been a contentious issue, especially between Enbridge and Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration, which has opposed the construction of the tunnel and attempted to shutdown the pipeline entirely. Those getting gas Tuesday were given postcards they could fill out and send to Whitmer’s office directly supporting the project.

Whether or not the individuals getting gas supported the tunnel project itself is difficult to say, but there was no denying the popularity of the free gas event. Traffic backed up from the station past the Starbucks on Lincoln Road as drivers tried to find a spot in line. Other drivers blocked the right-hand lane on Ludington Street trying to turn into the gas station, and yet others attempted to sneak in through an alley behind the station.

While being in a high-visibility location for the event was one of Enbridge’s top priorities, Lehto was quick to point out the decision to hold the gas giveaway at Carne’s Eco Fuels was in part due to owner Will Carne’s friendly nature.

“Will and his staff here are always friends, so we thought it’d be a good opportunity to partner up with Carne’s and give away some free gas,” said Lehto.


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