Boycotting BP Isn’t the Answer


There’s at least some evidence that a national boycott of BP-branded gas stations and other products is taking a toll, and that has brought up the question of whether boycotting is the way to go. As much as I love the idea of a grassroots consumer campaign to hit BP where it hurts, in the pocketbook, a boycott will have the unintended consequence of hurting victims of the spill more than the disgraced oil company. To have any chance of fairly compensating all the victims across the Gulf Coast, BP will need to make every dime it can in the near term. A boycott will certainly not help that process. Another thing to consider is that BP gas stations are locally owned and create much-needed local jobs.

There are also those who argue that boycotts simply don’t work. “I’m not sure it’s possible to boycott BP,” Bruce Bullock, executive director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, tells the Los Angeles Times. “When you combine the things that you can’t see with the things you don’t know, it’s virtually impossible to avoid a corporation with the reach of BP. Most consumer boycotts are ineffective for that reason.” See the LA Times story here:,0,5337038.story

Look, big oil companies are good at hiding behind women, children and local jobs. They do it in the boycott debate, and they’ll do it to dodge responsibility for disasters like this one. But, of course, it’s up to the individual to determine how he or she feels about supporting a boycott. For what it’s worth, I suggest using your energy to help victims rather than trying to hurt BP. Come down to the Gulf and volunteer. Make donations to environmental groups working on this massive spill such as the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). Write your elected officials, both at the local level and those in Washington, D.C., demanding that they make policy changes to ensure this kind of disaster never happens again. BP (or any other oil giant) might not fear a boycott of its massive empire, but you can bet it fears the U.S. Congress right about now.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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