We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein
Despite the “oil crisis” in the 1970’s, the catastrophic Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, and two oil-related Gulf wars, we continue to choose convenient self-delusion over logical, intelligent, honest and actionable thought. We Americans prefer the illusion of environmental action to any path that might require us to modify, even slightly, our own oil-dependent lifestyles.
There’s no better illustration of this misguided thinking than the boycott of BP service stations. Despite the obvious inanity of this non-solution, the Boycott BP Facebook page has nearly 700,000 fans.
BP franchise owners have become convenient, local scapegoats. They’ve had oil-soaked animal carcasses chucked on their doorsteps, and had to withstand protests, vandalism, verbal abuse and sales declines… but to what end?
If you are boycotting BP stations or considering it, here are ten good reasons to reconsider:
#1 BP Stations Aren’t Owned by BP
The 11,000 BP-branded gas stations in the U.S. are owned by independent franchisees – not BP. BP makes a tiny portion of its profits from retail gas sales, and can simply sell excess fuel inventory to other retailers… like the one boycotters are burning an extra gallon of unleaded to patronize.
Bottom line: Your boycott won’t hurt BP.
#2 Gas at No-Name Mini-Market May Still be BP Gas
Boycotting BP gas isn’t as easy as you think. Even if you fill up at Joe’s Mini-Market instead of a BP station, you may still be buying BP-refined gas. BP, like other oil companies, sells “unbranded” gasoline to a wide variety of local gasoline retailers.
Bottom line: Even if you bypass BP stations, odds are you’re still buying BP products.
#3 You’ll be Attacking Small Business Owners, Not Big Business
Think your boycott is anti-big-business? Think again. BP franchisees are small business owners with the misfortune of being locked in to franchise & fuel purchase agreements with the corporate giant. Some even chose BP because of its alleged corporate responsibility.
Bottom line: Depriving BP stations of your gas/cigarette/green tea purchases isn’t an attack on big business, it’s an assault on small to medium-size employers.
#4 Boycotting BP Hurts Local Economies
BP franchisees are small business owners. They are employers, taxpayers, homeowners & community members. They write paychecks to local citizens, pay local taxes, purchase good & services from other businesses and draw traffic to the local area and nearby businesses. What if your boycott is successful? Is a vacant lot, boarded windows, and a longer line at the unemployment office your idea of success?
Bottom line: You’ll hurt your neighbors more than BP with this boycott.
#5 Korn, Lady GaGa & The Backstreet Boys
No catastrophe is so devastating that attention-starved celebrities won’t exploit it for their own financial gain. To promote its upcoming album release, rock band Korn is exploiting the BP Boycott with a publicity push so inane it borders on self-parody.
Korn’s enlisted fellow 2D media hoors like Lady GaGa (pictured left) & The Backstreet Boys to take the bold step of filling their gas-guzzling tour buses at non-BP stations.
Bottom line: You’ll help the environment more by boycotting Korn, Lady GaGa & The Backstreet Boys. Demand that they cancel their energy-sucking, oil-wasting tours altogether.
#6 You Can’t REALLY Boycott BP
In an The Atlantic Wire article, John Hudson quotes 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.”
Bottom line: Boycotting BP completely is pretty much impossible. All you can do is pretend you’re boycotting BP.
#7 This Guy
Speaking of self-delusion, behold the picture of the fun, jolly guy who’s put more thought into making his pirate hat than thinking through the impact (or lack thereof) of the boycott he’s promoting. The fact that he feels he’s taking meaningful action by promoting a counterproductive boycott keeps him from putting his time and energy into endeavors that might actually have a positive impact.
Bottom line: Feel-good boycotts divert time and energy from activities that might yield real, positive results
#8 “Bankrupt BP!” Lunacy
We want BP to spend lots & lots of money cleaning up the catastrophe in the Gulf, right? We want BP to continue to spend lots & lots of money for years to come, right? So where is the logic in trying to diminish the revenue they’ll have available to put into clean-up efforts? Where is the logic in diverting our gas dollars to competitors that are not being required to put a portion of those dollars into cleaning the gulf?
Bottom line: Cutting off BP revenue threatens its ability to finance aggressive and long-term cleanup efforts in the Gulf.
#9 Lack of a Worthy Alternative
So if you are going to award your business to a more worthy oil company, which pillar of ecological responsibility will it be? ExxonMobil? ConocoPhillips? Citgo? Chevron? Valero (Diamond Shamrock)? QuickCo? Sunoco? How about Shell?
Can you name an oil company you feel good about? Maybe that’s why neither the Sierra Club, Greenpeace nor UnhappyFranchisee.com backs the boycott.
Bottom line: As Sierra Club spokesman Dave Willet says, “This is broader than just BP.”
#10 It Lets YOU Off The Hook
BP & 32 other companies are drilling deepwater wells in the Gulf for a simple reason: to keep up with the demand created by you, me and our fellow oil-addicted Americans. We’re consuming 800 million gallons of petroleum per week, and 25% of the world’s oil. Will switching gas brands change that?
Bottom line: Let’s stop doing things that make us FEEL LIKE we’re taking action, and actually TAKE ACTION.
#11 (Free bonus reason!) Let’s Boycott Stupidity Instead
We’re a smart, educated nation but let’s face it: the public puts more energy into choosing the next American Idol than addressing our energy addiction. Let’s demand more fuel efficient automobiles. Let’s demand greener energy practices for both individuals and businesses. Let’s replace any governmental watchdog agency that’s laying down with the dogs they’re supposed to be watching. Let’s actually develop and use the alternative sources we’ve been talking about for 30 years.
Most of all, let’s boycott our own stupidity. Boycott laziness. Boycott apathy. Boycott convenient self-delusion. Let’s start by boycotting the moronic BP Boycott, and stop using phony environmental activism to attack innocent business owners.
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Sean Patrick Kelly is a writer, consultant and publisher who is not funded by Big Oil. Connect with him via FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, his FranBest.com franchise blog, or email (seankelly[at]ideafarm.net).
Photo credits: BP Sign by dno1967, Lady GaGa by Michael_Spencer BP Pirate protester by Infrogmation. Gas brand signs by anolobb NY BP station (World Naked Bike Ride) by bitchcakesny. All licenses: Creative Commons