CHICAGO – Personal message to President Bush:

Relax, dude.

As you said this month, the nation is addicted to oil. But for a mere $149, you not only can solve the problem, you also make a few bucks doing it.

And Ron Popeil thought he had all the answers!

All consumers have to do is pop a couple of magic pills into their gas tanks, and they’ll realize an immediate 35 percent mileage increase. Take that, Arab sheiks!

And the pills cost only $50 for a bottle of 80 – or enough for 40 tanks of gas.

That initial $149, however, also entitles you to be a distributor via a Web site through BioPerformance, a Dallas-based company that goes by a P.O. box rather than a street address.

For $499, consumers can sell the pills plus enlist other mopes to sell them and pay a commission for the privilege.

Though an example of free enterprise at work, it also sounds like a pyramid scheme. So we called the BioPerformance contact, Brian Brower, an area manager in Utah, to learn for sure.

“Yes, it’s a pyramid, that’s what it is, and it’s legal,” he said.

Brower explained how the system works. But it was so convoluted and confusing that by the time he finished, we wanted to swallow a bottle of the pills and wash them down with 15 gallons of gas.

Once you sign up for $499, you try to enlist “right and left legs” to sell the pills and get each of those “legs” to enlist right and left legs to sell pills for them, and on and on.

No matter how many legs sprout, each and every one pays you a commission.

Brower buys bottles of pills, not to slip in his gas tank, but to give away to friends, relatives and strangers on the street. “I buy 600 pills and give them away to get others interested and hope they’ll sign up to sell them because that’s where the income comes in,” he said.

In addition to commissions, you earn other perks as you move up in the BioPerformance hierarchy to regional manager, vice president, senior vice president, national marketing director and finally international marketing director, who gets a 3 percent commission on all the pills sold in the world. The perks include luxury car and house payments.

So how does BioPerformance boost fuel economy and cure the U.S. oil addiction with all the attention focused on selling the pills rather than using them?

The selling is the business, according to David Sykuta, executive director of the Illinois Petroleum Council. “There is no magic pill that will increase mileage,” said Sykuta, who advises those approached to sell the pills to perform a little magic of their own and quickly disappear.

The Environmental Protection Agency in Washington has registered the pills, but that means only that they are no more harmful than the gas in the tank, said EPA spokesman John Millet.

Though the EPA never endorses any fuel-saving additive or device, Millet did pass along a tip:

“Our advice to any consumer wanting to buy a gadget to increase fuel economy is to buy a tire-pressure gauge,” Millet said.

And then get two other people to buy a tire-pressure gauge, and each of those get two people to buy a tire gauge and …

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