10 Reasons NOT to Boycott BP

( by Sean Kelly

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 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.


Sean Patrick Kelly is a writer, consultant and publisher who is not funded by Big Oil.  Connect with him via FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter, his franchise blog, or email (seankelly[at]

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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

10 thoughts on “10 Reasons NOT to Boycott BP

  • Beau B. Avery

    You’ve got two number 4’s there. Great article otherwise.

  • Thanks for the catch, Beau B. Avery.
    In the tradition of Nigel Tufnel, my list now goes to “11”

  • OH No Letterman is going to be upset, guess you won’t be invited on his show but oh well great article. Just think how many people will be hurt if BP goes bankrupt as a result of this. What a mess

  • I have to say that I disagree with you here. First off, I am on a campaign to reduce my use of fossil fuels in the first place, so I may not be the best person to comment here. I started to write a long response, so decided I would blog about it myself. I will post it at

  • This is a great resource and advice that I wish more people would heed. The feeble minded seem to steer the ship with regards to popular opinion in our country. We have nobody to blame but ourselves and our insatiable appetite for oil.

  • franchisee owner - Curves

    As a small business owner, I understand that BP franchisees are the only ones who are going to be hurt by the boycott. Think about it don’t hurt the little guys!

  • Eric Wilhelm

    Ok, but a simple google search produces the following information:
    – at BP franchises like AM/PM 10.5% of the store profits go to BP, even for independent franchises – 5% franchise fee and 5.5% advertisement and promotions fee – just google am/pm and franchise
    – BP sells franchises for $70,000, essentially selling nothing but the trust in a well-established market brand
    – Based on several articles written in June, BP is in no danger of bankruptcy because of the clean-up and boycott, although it is understandable that they would want people to think that. They average 2.5 billion per quarter.

    People are absolutely right in pointing out the gas itself can come from many sources, and that many, if not all, gas companies come with questions about human rights abuses and enironmental disasters — — all this should inform any decision to boycott or not.

    But can’t we try to move towards weaning ourselves off oil — through lifestyle changes, voting against “Drill, Baby, Drill!” — while at the same time using free market forces (a boycott is the free market at work) to affect a company that is actively responsible for a current environmental disaster in our waters? To me it seems a boycott would be the beginning of more comprehensive, effective change, while choosing not to boycott is MORE likely to lead to an apathetic return to old habits.

    I would encourage franchise owners affected to petition BP to let them out of their contracts, and, if they don’t, take that story to the media.

  • Pingback: Ten Reasons Why “Boycott BP” is a Stupid Idea « The Skeptical Teacher

  • Dominic Marcello

    #1 is a ridiculous reason. Franchisees bought into the BP image when they decided to open a BP franchise as a opposed to one of another oil company. These franchisees reap the benefits of all the national advertising that BP pays for, and for years they reaped the benefits of BP’s “green” advertising campaign. For years they got fat off of BP’s positive image, and now that it turns out their choice of franchise was a bad one, they expect to be rewarded for it? They pay franchise royalties to BP, and any boycott that shuts down a local franchisee – or which compels him or her to switch brands – hurts BP.

    #2 is true … but its false to argue that since its impossible to ensure one never buys anything made by BP – it does no good to do one’s best to avoid it.

    #3 is the same argument as #1.

    #4 is just absurd – it doesn’t even make sense. If I buy my gas at the station across the street from BP that is a franchise of another oil company, I’m not hurting the local economy, I’m still buying the same amount of gas in the same locality!

    #5 Wow. Who cares?

    #6 If we couldn’t “really” boycott BP you wouldn’t need to come up with reasons for us to not boycott them.

    #7 You’ve never even spoken to that guy in your life, I don’t really see how you could possibly know how much thought he’s put into anything or how he feels, and even if you did, I don’t see what makes it relevant.

    #8 BP’s net assets are close to $100,000,000,000. That should cover it. And even if it isn’t enough to cover it, BP will never actually pay more than that amount anyway, rendering your argument moot.

    #9 Why would I need to name an oil company I “feel good” about? I thought you were against making decisions based on “feeling” ? There is no oil company that has spilled as much oil into the environment as BP.

    #10 How is that an argument against boycotting BP? Are you suggesting a company’s safety record at deepwater drilling is irrelevant? If company A can deepwater drill without major accidents and company B cannot – that’s not relevant?

    #11 – “Let’s demand, let’s demand” isn’t going to change the market. The demand isn’t there and no amount of your feel good rhetoric will change that – the only thing that will is cap and trade.


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