Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is boycotting BP/Arco a good idea?

I stopped in a 76 station today and asked the clerk if she knew why gas prices were going up everywhere in the area except Arco, when news reports indicate that gas prices are going down nationwide. We discussed it for a while, but she had no idea either, and said I should call corporate headquarters. And once more, I gritted my teeth and paid for gas that was 24 cents more a gallon than at Arco.

Later, I read this comment on a blog I follow, Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic, and it made me rethink what I was doing:

I would just add, not buying gasoline from BP really does nothing to hurt them. Oil is a fungible product, so as long as you're buying from someone else, the price stays the same. Contra popular belief, the vast majority of gas stations are not company-owned, so you may put the franchise owner out of business, but the oil companies are collecting their revenues on the liquid, diffuse wholesale market, which sure as hell isn't going to boycott BP.

Only by using less oil do you hurt oil companies. That's how fungible commodities are different from everything else--BP's oil goes in the same pipelines as everybody else's.

Crunchy Chicken made a similar point on her blog tonight, as did the blog Fake Plastic Fish. The latter includes links to a number of articles about how all of us are contributing to the problem, by driving and the use of so many plastics in our lives. Here's a good one, among many: 23 Ways to Use Less Oil.

There is so much to change, which can feel overwhelming again, so I repeat my mantras: Small Steps. Do the Best You Can. On an upnote, a recent article about Pierce County Transit noted that the overwhelming response of people in our county has been to ask them not to make any more cuts in bus service, even if taxes have to be raised to maintain them. Breaking our oil addiction will only work if we keep pushing for alternatives to driving!

On a personal upnote about using less energy, we received our latest bimonthly Tacoma Public Utility bill today (which covers electricity, including heat, and water). Our April bill was twice that of February's, and equal to that of April last year. I had lamented the fact that our track record of reducing our energy usage had been broken (although the bill seemed too high for what I'd thought we'd used; c'mon, we used more energy in April than in February?!). Turns out, the bill was too high, and TPU corrected it. The resulting bill for June is a negative $91!

I will end this post with a challenge from Beth, the blogger at Fake Plastic Fish. This challenge is more for me than for anyone who might be reading. I don't want to start thinking, "Whew! I can buy the cheaper gas at Arco again!" This whole issue is so much bigger. Here's Beth:

The point is not whether we drive some or buy some plastic or eat some meat or carry a reusable bag. Those things won’t matter if we don’t change our basic mindset of entitlement. As far as I’m concerned, we’re entitled to have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and clothing on our backs. We’re entitled to healthcare and fair treatment and the opportunity for self-actualization. We are not entitled to a new car or prime rib or an iPod or expensive shoes. We’re not entitled to a latte wherever and whenever we want one or even a hamburger. We’re simply not entitled to destroy the planet, its animals, and the 85% of the world’s population who earn less than $2,500/year so we can have these things. We’re just not.


  1. Thank you for quoting me, but more importantly, thank you for the info on the waffle iron! We have a nonstick waffle iron that I never use and that Michael sometimes uses secretly when I'm not in the house. I've gotten rid of all the other non-stick stuff in the house, and that one is a holdout.

    I wonder if I can find one used somewhere...

  2. Beth, you're like me, LOL! Eco-friendly is good, second-hand eco-friendly is even better!