Should we be boycotting BP?

posted by Russ, May 18 in environment with tags , , , ,


With this big oil mess in the Gulf, I’ve been debating, should I be boycotting British Petroleum? I typically buy my gas at AM/PM-Arco stations, since they are cash only and are cheaper than most other stations. But now I’m wondering if I should switch.

In the past I have always stayed away from Exxon Mobil, I don’t think I need to explain why no one should like them. (Except their shareholders … remember their billion dollar profits while people couldn’t afford to buy gas??) Even though it’s been a silent protest of mine for years now, I’ve always thought that it was sort of silly. I mean, sure, you can single out an oil company for having a bad track record, but really, aren’t they all bad? Is there a such thing as a “good” oil company?

Exxon Mobil was responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in history, so even before they started raping the public they had a target on their back (yet still managed to bring in record profits). And in the past few years, with all this noise from Chavez in Venezuela, these silly emails have been going around calling for boycotts of Citgo. And now of course British Petroleum has eclipsed Exxon in the disaster category, becoming the new bad guy.

There are so many bad things about oil companies, if there is a need to be protesting one or the other all the time, isn’t that a pretty good indicator that things need to change? And not to mention the Middle East and all of our problems there. (I’ll just leave that one at that, without getting political.) At the end of the day, all oil is evil and should be boycotted if we truly cared. When it comes down to it, there is no good solution, and unfortunately all that is happening is our thirst for oil continues to increase.

Rather than these temporary boycotts of where we buy gas, we should focus on reducing the need in the first place. Before getting in the car and then wondering where we should fill up, we should think about whether we need to get in the car in the first place. We need to start walking more, riding our bikes, and taking public transportation.

Don’t think I am immune to this, it’s something that bothers me deeply, the fact that I have to get in my car more often than I would like. Which is why I am posting this in the first place. (Side note: Reducing meat consumption can keep more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than giving up your car.) Driving a car is so easy, we get in and go and it’s just a fleeting afterthought when it comes time to fill up. Which is cheapest, should I pass the Mobil station? What about Arco? Citgo?

Unfortunately, we don’t always have these choices, which is why I’m even wondering, will it do any good to boycott a “bad” oil company. Oil is such a big part of our life, we often have no choice in the matter. So until we all work to reduce our need for oil, this will continue to be a cycle where there are no winners, and the oil companies can have their way.

On a positive note, it does seem like the public awareness of such issues is raising. People are becoming more concerned about the environment. They are paying attention to where the products they consume come from, and how they are produced. So maybe the tide is turning. Maybe people will begin making lifestyle changes, and maybe we will begin demanding these changes of our elected leaders.

I want to know what you think? Will temporary boycotts of these oil companies make a difference? Will it just be like a slap on their wrists before another quarter of record profits? Will people begin change their habits?

Originally posted on Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 at 11:20 AM .

2 Responses to “Should we be boycotting BP?”

  1. Peter Tate says:

    You have two issues here.

    1. Should we boycott companies for bad behaviour? I say yes if the company activities generally conflict with our values. You can feel silly (I do) but you need to see it is a personal stand for your own moral code. Boycotting as a punitive act for a single situation I’d say no but you can still write to the CEO and complain! You should do that especially if you are boycotting.

    2. How can we reduce oil dependency? More critical than we realise because of the probable Peak Oil issue, not just climate change. Reducing oil dependency is not just about reducing car usage its about becoming more local and organic in our supply chains, realising where petrochemicals are used and finding alternatives – look at plastics, drugs, fertilizers (major issue!!!) in fact most everyday items and activities. Eg. do you realise that a single baby uses between 4500-6000 nappies from birth to potty? – the petrochemical content in those are the equivalent of 25 tanks of gas! We just throw them away …

    You may be interested in the transition town movement? Take a look at http://www.transitionnetwork.org/

  2. Russ says:

    Peter, thanks for reading and commenting. Also, excellent points you’ve raised. Regarding you second point, it is amazing when you start considering how much petroleum is involved in our daily lives. Most people probably relate oil to driving and possibly heating their homes, yet they fail realize that oil plays a significant part of every aspect of their lives, including (as you mentioned) their baby diapers, babies toys, fertilizer used to produce their food (if not organic), plastic bags, to dish soap (if not vegetable based), and beyond that due to its use in the production and transportation of most consumables.

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