This is a long post. For those of you with a short attention span, here is the bottom line. There are only two ways to make a difference. First, reduce your own personal use of petroleum (forever....not just while it is politically correct). Second, write your senator or congressman and raise holy hell over the issue of sustainable energy.
I have close friend (yo Proclus!) who has been beating the drum to boycott BP (British Petroleum) over the current debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. My first reaction was to climb on board and support the boycott. Then - alas - my brain cells engaged, and I devoted some cranial time to the issue. Here is the result.
There are two questions. First: "Why boycott BP?" Second: "How to boycott BP?"
I will take the questions in reverse order. Therefore, I will first address the problem of how to boycott BP (or any other major player in the petroleum industry).
In my corner of the world (Utah) BP is not a player. But Chevron is. So I will pretend that the villain of this drama is Chevron, and I will proceed from that point. I chose Chevron because they have a business relationship with my previous employer and I can speak from a position of knowledge and experience. WTF - the major oil companies are interchangeable, aren't they?
How to boycott? Stop buying from them. Right. Sure.
In Utah, there are a number of Gas Stations that are branded as Chevron. But none of them (NOT ONE) is actually owned by Chevron. It works like this. If I own a gas station, and I choose to be branded as a Chevron Station, the following happens...
I display the Chevron logo.
My customers can use their Chevron credit card for purchases.
The gasoline delivered to my location includes that magical and mystical substance known as "Techron"
I pay an extra 2 to 4 cents per gallon or the gasoline delivered to my business.
But what about the gasoline delivered to my Gas Station? It comes from the Wood's Cross Refinery on North Salt Lake that supplies EVERY OTHER GAS STATION in the entire freaking state. The only difference is this: When the dude running the facility that loads the tankers prepares the gasoline transfer, he sees a note that this is a Chevron delivery. So he pushes the button that adds "Techron" to the load. And off it goes. And the next load, going to a Phillips 66, gets fuel from the same freaking tank, only without the flunky pushing the "Thechron" button. And so it goes.....
But - you ask - where does the crude oil come from that is turned into the gasoline that ends up in my tank? Again - it isn't clear, and it doesn't matter. The Woods Cross refinery mentioned above buys crude on the spot market, from whatever player happens to have the best price at the moment. And, with the way the commodities market works, the barrel of oil they buy may have come from any well in the world, and passed through any number of hands, and have any of a hundred fingerprints on it, before it was actually shoved into the refactoring tower and turned it into liquid gold.
"But", you say, "what if I cut up my credit card and buy from another retailer?"
First, the retailer isn't owned by the company. The Chevron station at 2100 South and 300 West in Salt Lake is NOT owned by Chevron. It is owned by Premium Oil Co. If you stop buying from them, Premium Oil suffers, but Chevron doesn’t give a f*ck. The only loss they suffer is the tiny sliver of margin they may see from a few (a VERY few) credit card transactions. And that margin is - trust me on this - only a sliver. Not worth sweating over.
So - leading to the other question - what is to be done?
Here is the crux of the issue. Every time you (or anyone) pulls into a gas station, shoves the nozzle into the filler (yummmm......insertion!!!!!!) and starts pumping, and pumping, - oh baby, keep pumping.....yeah....pump it baby....
...we create this thing called "Consumer Demand".
As much as we may want to paint BP with the colors of villainy, the awefull fact is this: they are only on a quest to fill consumer demand. And that consumer demand comes from you and from me.
End of story.
If you and I weren’t buying the shit, and if we weren't willing to PAY for the shit, BP (or Chevron, or whoever-the-fuck) wouldn't be drilling for the shit.
For myself, I am setting June 30 as the starting date. As of June 30, 2010 I will do the following:
First, I will cut my personal consumption of petroleum by 10%. The car I drive already gets 37 mpg, so this might be a trick. I may start working a 4-10 schedule instead of my current 5 day schedule. I might resume my habit of 'couch-surfing' Tuesday nights at the home of Holly and Beverly. (I live 50 miles from "the office" - they live one 10 miles from "the office") I might lower my driving speed from 65 mph to 60 mph.
On June 30 of 2011, I will put myself to the task of reducing another 10 percent. Another 10 percent on June 30, 2012. on it goes.....
Second, I will send at least one letter a month to my US Senator and House Representative demanding that they, for goodness sake, DO SOMETHING to move us from oil dependency to something that can be sustained without trashing the world we live in.