Would a boycott of BP gas stations work by having an effect on the oil company?

11:57 AM, Jul 6, 2010   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- A locally-owned BP station in Tampa is holding a customer appreciation day to fight against a nationwide push to boycott BP gas stations.

Green-and-white fliers with "Thank you for your continued loyalty" at the top have been handed out to customers of the BP store at Dale Mabry Highway and Azeele Street in South Tampa.

The fliers announce a customer appreciation event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday. Employees will be washing car windows for free and handing out small goodies like air fresheners.

Nationwide, a push is growing to boycott BP's gas stations as a move to protest what some see as an inept response by the company to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Dee Pittman has started selling bumper stickers in Pensacola pushing for a boycott of BP.

She says the proceeds from the hundreds she's sold so far will go to a wildlife foundation.

"This is my home, I'm going to say something. I want this place to be here for my grand children's children," Pittman said.

In Alabama, a BP gas station says the combination of angry customers and a drop in tourism has cut its business in half since the oil spill started.

"We've put up signs that say 'part of the community.' That means that this store is actually locally owned. We aren't owned by BP, we just sell their gas and that's it," store clerk Marla Ward said.

Like that Alabama store and the one in South Tampa, most of the 11,000 gas stations in the U.S. that advertise BP products are not owned by BP.

Still, some activists say those stations have benefitted from BP's marketing for years, so it is fair that the stations suffer along with the big oil company that supplies their products.

Would a major boycott effort have an impact on BP?

The odds aren't good, for three reasons.

First, if Americans stop buying BP's oil, the company could find other buyers for its oil on the worldwide market.

Second, BP's reach extends well beyond BP stations with a green-and-yellow sign out front. BP is a leading supplier of jet fuel as well as lubricants for cargo ships.

Plus, many gas stations sell BP gasoline, but don't advertise that fact. So, a complete boycott of BP products would be difficult.

Third, a boycott would have to be designed to pressure BP to change its policies -- not put the company out of business.

If BP were to go bankrupt before it put billions of dollars into an oil spill cleanup fund, it's not clear who would pay for years of oil cleanup in the Gulf.

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