What To Do About BP?

Yesterday, we put up a poll about whether or not to boycott of BP. It wasn’t an indictment or even a suggestion of whether or not we should boycott, just trying to gauge where people stood.

We didn’t get a huge amount of votes, quite frankly, but the last time I looked it was pretty much split.

One of my friends owns a convenience store. Their supplier is BP. I’ve bought gas from this man and his family for roughly 25 years.  I don’t want to see him suffer due to the mistakes of others.

Chris Wage addresses this today at Pith.

The effects of a BP gas station boycott would be ineffective and/or undesirable for a few reasons:

1) BP gas stations aren’t owned by BP — they’re owned by independent franchisees. This means that if you boycott these stores in general, you’re only screwing some poor guy trying to make a buck.

2) Oil is what they call a “fungible commodity” — this means basically that if you don’t buy it, someone else will. Further, since boycotting BP stations means they’ll just sell their gas wholesale elsewhere, the result could actually be marginally higher prices due to reduced suppliers.

3) Finally, even if a boycott did affect BP somehow (which it won’t), one wonders how you reconcile this with the fact that we’re trying to force them to clean up their mess. Hitting them in the pocketbook right now, in the midst of a truly unprecedented (and perhaps futile) clean-up effort, seems a bit ill-advised.

When it comes to easy answers regarding Deepwater Horizon, there aren’t any.  I’ll be honest. Part of me wants to never give BP another dime. The other part of me wants the little guy that is just trying to make a dime at his store not go under. So what do we do about BP?

Just like the poll yesterday, many of us are split in our thinking on what to do because this is situation where we have been rendered helpless. One thing we all agree is that this is the worst environmental disaster we’ve ever had in this country.

Related: R. Neal also has more where there is a bit of debate going on in the comments in his post about the oil spill.

4 comments for “What To Do About BP?

  1. May 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Unfortunately, Chris Wage merely replaced one simple answer with another simple answer. Both a BP boycott and riding the bus more (and both together) are answers of those basically helpless to change the greedy Big Oil culture that expands beyond market demand for fuel. There is nothing to stop BP from passing punishment to lowly franchise employees if people start driving cars less. The result could be the same.

    I wonder how many innocent little people and small shop owners were hurt in Montgomery, AL by the 1955 bus boycotts for black folks’ civil rights? If we had been there and we knew of them, would that have caused us to oppose the boycott?

  2. May 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Great response Mike. I think you are right on target here as well. There aren’t any easy answers obviously and we, as bloggers, are trying to figure it all out. I wrote last week about friends of mine who own a seafood restaurant. They are in trouble and they know it. I see them scrambling to figure out what to do. Another point, one thing about rural America (or my hometown of Hoots) is the lack of public transportation which I just wanted to throw out there. And I am afraid that BP is going to pass judgment. In so many damned ways, they’ve gotten away with so much. What I’m trying to figure out right now is what all does BP own?

    It’s scary. And you do make a good point. Trying to process it all at this point. I think we all are.

  3. May 28, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I commented on pith as well, but two quick points:

    1) I didn’t mean to imply that riding the bus was enough to change our oil dependency — merely a half tongue-in-cheek suggestion that (one of) the answer(s) is reduced oil consumption in general, not just changing where we buy it from, which has no effect on a market for a fungible commodity like oil/gas.

    2) The bus boycotts in the 50s worked because they directly and painfully affected the entities capable of effecting the desired change — which would not be the case with a boycott of BP gas stations (as I pointed out on Pith)

  4. May 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

    It’s my view that attempting to punish BP at street level is futile at best. That is a job for the federal gov’t and only provided that BP is found to be 100% responsible. They probably aren’t.

    The best answer to this environmental disaster, which is far more severe than most people are realizing, is to pour billions and billions in alternative fuels such as hemp biodiesel.
    Had this been done decades ago like it should have there would be no oil in the gulf.

    Punishment may well be deserved, but solutions are more urgent and phasing out oil should be our #1 environmental priority.
    This should serve as a grim wake up call to all the complete and total idiots who support punching holes in the ocean floor to retrieve poison that even the earth was smart enough to keep away from living things.

    I’ll bet is sucks for people like Sara Palin to know that even the ground beneath their feet is smarter than they are.

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