Why Boycotting BP Gas Stations is Foolish and Hurtful
One of the tragedies resulting from the BP Gulf fiasco is spreading across the United States. Boycotts have spread across the web and in communities urging consumers not to buy any BP branding gasoline—including ARCO, which is a huge brand in California. I admit my stomach turns whenever I see that BP logo. And 20-plus years after the Exxon Valdez spill, I have a hard time buying Exxon- or Mobil- branded gas. But participating in such a boycott misses the point. In the end, by purportedly boycotting BP, you are hurting folks who are running these gas stations—and are already selling gas at thin margins anyhow. Gas companies put the screws so tight on gas station operators that many of them turn to selling food, by which they make more money than from selling gasoline. Gas station owners and franchisees are locked into long-term contracts, and BP so far has done little to help their franchisees deal with the lost sales resulting from boycotts. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that buying gasoline from stations sporting different brands frees you from BP: like other oil companies, they sell their products to other companies. Buying gasoline from independent dealers or Costco is not necessarily freeing you from BP. Do you really want to make a difference following the Deepwater Horizon disaster? Reduce your use of plastic products: if we are going to use oil, it should be for fuel, not those horrid plastic bags at the supermarket or encasing products in PET. Drive less and wean yourself away from the car—maybe you’ll lose weight in the process. And stop buying products that use conventionally grown corn: the Gulf of Mexico has already been suffering from the increase of nitrates flowing down the Mississippi and into the Gulf, hurting wildlife and the fishing industry. Swapping one gas company for another is myopic and misplaced – we need to sacrifice and make some changes to our lifestyle. Of course, do not count on hearing that from our leaders anytime soon.