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Buy BP Gasoline
A small fraction of the public's response to the Gulf oil spill has taken a turn that is as pointless as it is harmful to small, uninvolved companies; the boycott of independently owned and operated BP service stations. The boycott is spearheaded by Public Citizen. PC pitches the boycott as a way "to hold BP accountable" even though what they are trying to do is harm small businesses whose names they don't even know.

Not content with boycotting independent business people, some zealots have gone further and engaged in abuse of station employees, vandalism and, according to the Guardian, a "BP petrol station in Mississippi has even had gunshots fired through its windows in the middle of the night, in an apparent protest without any attempt at a robbery."

This is not the first time locally owned service stations have been victimized for occurrences completely out of their control. When higher oil prices resulted in sharp increases in gasoline prices, many service station employees bore the brunt of consumer anger. Boycotting BP stations over the spill makes as much sense as thinking that the person behind the station counter determines international energy prices.

What is the purpose then of boycott and related abuse? Symbolism? The damage in the Gulf is too real and the need for remediation too great for anyone to engage in symbolic response. Besides, does anyone really believe that what's needed now is yet more collateral damage to small businesses?

It's time to move beyond Public Citizen's deceptive PR campaign. It's time to do something useful. Support one of the organizations providing relief assistance in the Gulf area, such as the Greater New Orleans Foundation's Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund. And, patronize your locally owned and operated service station irrespective of brand.

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