Spend any time on the internet and you’ll no doubt have seen calls for a boycott of all BP (British Petroleum) products. This includes their gas stations (ARAL in Germany, ARCO in the US), as well as Castrol motor oil.
A Good Sentiment, But…
Not giving our business to BP feels good. After the mess that’s been made in the gulf, contributing any more dollars to the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon mess is a shaky prospect indeed.
But there are a few things about this boycott that are worth thinking about some more. I’ll lay out two of them right here.
First — BP Has Already Doomed Itself
According to recent reports, BP is now valued at less than its assets. This represents a massive drop from where it was before. The market is seriously punishing this company and isn’t done yet. The costs of the cleanup are on BP’s books, and the public relations hit being taken by the company, combined with possible payouts to fishermen affected by the oil spill could damage the company even further.
So — your boycott sends a message, and is something good to do personally, especially if you’re nervous that the government won’t exercise a heavy enough hand in holding the company responsible for the environmental mess it’s created.
But this brings us to our next issue.
Second — What Are You Going to Buy Instead of BP Products?
If you’re just boycotting those aspects of BP that don’t touch oil production in some way, then sure — they own lots of convenience stores and are involved in many other businesses (you can see all of them on boycottbp.org).
But if you stop buying oil at BP stations, aren’t you just going to have to stop at another station nearby to fill up your car? Or by boycotting castrol, won’t you simply have to switch to another oil instead?
This is one of those crystal-clear moments where making more substantiative changes in your life would make a bigger difference than simply moving your dollars to a different oil company.
What You Can Do Now — That Goes Beyond Just a Boycott
Start car sharing. Ride your bike more often. Heck, go out and get a hybrid sooner than you were planning to. Install some solar panels. We have tons of lifestyle ideas right on our own site.
Don’t use this moment simply to switch gas station brands. Take it and run with it — make small, realistic, good decisions that reduce the dependence of your day-to-day life on oil. If everyone thinking about boycotting BP did this, the difference would be incalculable.