Will boycotts of BP gas stations hurt the company? - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Will boycotts of BP gas stations hurt the company?

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NATIONAL (NBC) - There's a push among some grassroots environmental organizations to boycott British Petroleum, the corporation struggling to cleanup a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Others argue a boycott would only hurt small business owners who sell gasoline, and not the intended target.

From Los Angeles to New Jersey, protesters are calling for a BP boycott. The consumer group public citizen has launched a web campaign. "The BeyondBP.com boycott is all about to send a clear message to BP that their actions have been absolutely unacceptable," said Citizen Energy Program Director Tyson Slocum.

BP is under fire for its initial response to the oil rig explosion April 20 and efforts afterwards to stop oil flow gushing from a ruptured underwater pipe.

But convenience store owners that sell BP gas so far have not reported a drop in business, unlike the consumer backlash at the pump following the Exxon Valdez spill 21 years ago. That disaster triggered protest rallies and consumers returned thousands of Exxon's credit cards to the company.

Then, like now independent operators argued they should not be punished for the oil company's actions. "These stores may sell a brand of liquid but that is the end of the association," said Jeff Lenard of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

A BP spokesman says the company no longer owns or operates the vast majority of BP branded sites in the U.S. Even though it supplies fuel to regional distributors and independent franchise owners.

For the most part it's business as usual with consumers who agree the spill is awful, but continue to buy gas based on price and convenience. "Right now I'm not sure how the spill began, so I can't hold it against the company, they're trying to fix it," said consumer Steve Guthry.

If boycott proponents succeed, stations will stop selling BP oil, or consumers will stop buying from their stores.

The Sierra Club is among the organizations not part of the BP boycott. The group said it instead will focus on getting the people in power to hold BP accountable for its actions and to renew efforts to ban offshore drilling altogether.

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