Why Boycotting BP Isn't Helping Anybody

The unintended consequences of snubbing BP at the pump

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Across the country, news outlets are reporting grassroots boycotts of BP gas in response to the Gulf oil spill. As local station owners begin seeing serious losses, consumer advocacy groups, The Chicago Sun-Times, mayors and Facebook pages (at least one boasting 600,000 members) continue to urge consumers to bypass BP-branded gas stations. But what is the end result of such a boycott and who is it really hurting?
  • You're Barely Hurting the Corporation, writes Gregory Karp at The Chicago Tribune: "Boycotting BP gas stations does not hurt the oil company's coffers much, at least directly. BP doesn't even own the 11,000 BP-branded stations in the United States. The company started getting out of the retail gas-selling business a couple years ago. In fact, all big oil companies did because it wasn't profitable enough."
  • You're Hurting the Little Guy, writes S.E. Jones at Helium: "The main reason that boycotting BP gas stations is a bad idea is because in doing so, you will only be hurting Americans that own, or run, or just work at these gas stations. Boycotting the stations won’t hurt BP, because the number of people that would join the boycott would be insufficient to even appear on their bottom line. ... The only real affect you might have is causing that station to go out of business causing the owner and his employees to lose their jobs. How is that hurting BP?"
  • Signage Can Be Deceiving, writes Diana Zoga at News 4 in St. Louis: "Connections to BP aren't always apparent.  A sign on a gas station that says BP may not always sell fuel that comes from BP's wells. Haim Mano, an associate professor of marketing in the College of Business Administration at the University of Missouri - St. Louis says that BP is a major player in the wholesale market.  The company sells fuel to a variety of sources and gas you buy at another station may actually carry BP gas and vice-versa."
  • It's a Lot Harder to Escape BP Products Than You Think, writes Kait Rayner at WJBF in Augusta: "BP does more than just sell gas. their petroleum is used to make tires, sunglasses, and cleaning supplies. It's in your lipstick, your shampoo...and even in your toothpaste."
  • BP Needs Money to Clean Up the Spill, adds S.E. Jones: "[BP] is going to need all the cash it can get its hands on because oil companies are heavily investment oriented companies. They don’t just keep cash lying around to toss at problems should they arise. To come up with the kind of cash that is needed to clean up the gulf, BP is going to need the cash income from its gas stations, otherwise it will have to divest some of its inventory, which could take a considerable amount of time, during which, the cleanup would be stalled."
  • Still Need a Way to Vent Your Anger?  Alissa Figueroa at The Christian Science Monitor offers some alternatives:
-Bike or walk. Don’t drive.
-Drive smarter. Consolidate your driving trips; include some form of public transportation in your commute; carpool.
-Turn down your air conditioner, or in the winter, turn down the heat.
-Visit house.gov or senate.gov to learn how your congressmen stands on the upcoming energy package. If you don’t like their stances, write a letter or call.
-If you do have some experience cleaning birds or managing toxic spills, volunteer your time in the Gulf. Note that there is not enough staff on hand to train people, and the oil is toxic, so if you don't have any oil clean-up experience, you're not encouraged to volunteer.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.