Artists Heed Call from KORN to Boycott BP, But Who Will It Really Hurt?

More time has passed and BP hasn’t stopped oil from spewing into the Gulf. The images just get more horrifying, the facts more troubling, and anger against BP continues to rise.  Between Tony Hayward’s boneheaded remarks and the troubling rhetoric from morons on Capitol Hill, it is impossible to keep cool about this entire situation.  Especially after learning that BP knew more from the beginning than they originally told the public as reported by CNN.

Something has to be done, and KORN was leading the musical charge against BP announcing a boycott a couple of weeks ago.  As part of the band’s announcement, the group asked for others musicians to follow in their footsteps.  Many have responded.  The following top touring artists have joined the cause and have committed to avoid the use of fuel sold by BP or its affiliates on their upcoming tours for 2010: Disturbed, Lady Gaga, Rise Against, Godsmack, Backstreet Boys, Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, Slightly Stoopid, Rob Zombie, Megadeth, Black Label Society with Zakk Wylde, Anthrax, Creed, Filter, Hellyeah and Flogging Molly.

“This is the worst thing that has ever happened to the environment in U.S. history.  From everything we’re hearing about now, it’s become clear that BP cut corners to put profit ahead of safety.  The message we are sending should tell all the oil companies to spend the money and take the necessary precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” said Jonathon Davis of KORN. “I’m really proud that this many artists have already come on board, and I hope more will join soon.”

Despite the push to avoid purchasing BP products, the oil industry doesn’t operate how many of us assume.

BP Will Still Make Money from a Boycott

Even though many of us are avoiding BP, we may not be avoiding the company’s fuel like we think we are.  The unfortunate reality is that gasoline distribution is far from cut and dry, as I learned over the weekend.

Because oil is a globally traded commodity, there is no easy way to confirm which exploration company is responsible for that tank of gas you just bought, regardless of what the signage over the pump says.

So, whose bottom line are you hurting with your personal BP boycott? BP gets a little from being a franchise owner, although a BP spokesman would not say how much. Largely, it’s independent service station owners who suffer.

If sales volume drops and BP gets stuck with unpurchased gasoline, it can quickly and easily wholesale the excess to stations that sell gas without a brand name, experts said.  (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Should the American public continue to buy fuel from BP? Well, this depends on your vantage point and perspective. Yes, the nation is angry and many of us want to punish BP, but let’s take a closer look at other oil companies. Newsweek published an interesting article that describes the grim consequences of avoiding BP.

Drive right on by the BP station and pull up to the pumps from Exxon, the company responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 and, more recently, one of the biggest corporate funders of the movement to tar the science of climate change. Exxon also managed to reduce the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by an Anchorage jury for the Valdez disaster to $507.5 million; the Valdezfishermen and other victims have still not been made whole. (Fun fact: to protect itself in case the original judgment was affirmed, Exxon got a line of credit from JP Morgan, which the bank then parlayed into the first credit default swap, as recounted in the 2009 book Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett. These are the exotic financial instruments that helped trigger the Great Recession of 2008–09.)

Or roll into the Texaco or Chevron station (Chevron bought Texaco in 2001). Texaco is being sued by people in Ecuador for contaminating their groundwater, causing hundreds of residents to develop fatal cancers and causing other environmental damage near the Lago Agrio oilfield, where Texaco dumped oil-production waste (18.5 billion gallons into open, unlined pits) for almost 20 years. (For those of you moved by First Amendment issues, Chevron has also gone to court to force filmmaker Joe Berlinger to turn over more than 600 hours of outtake footage he shot for his documentary on the case, titled Crude.) Chevron counters that dumping sludge was standard operating procedure at the time.

The article goes on to describe several more troubling issues from other companies that are serving as a BP substitute.   Sometimes we are blinded by our rage and forget that other oil companies have caused devastation around the globe.  EVERY company has committed environmental atrocities.  BP just happens to be the most visible company right now because of the media frenzy and the ongoing spillage in the gulf.  Perhaps avoiding BP will help us feel better, but we need to keep in mind that hurting local businesses is not the same as trying to cause the main company some financial pain.

Korn and the other artists that followed the band are sending a message to BP, but avoiding the oil giant may not have the desired impact.

The only way to completely avoid BP products is to avoid all oil and natural gas, an unrealistic possibility.

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