boycotting BP?

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Pretty much everyone is REALLY ANGRY about the ongoing BP oil volcano deep in the Gulf of Mexico.  I’m angry too.  But when lots of people start calling for a boycott of BP, I get off the boat. Or oil rig. Or whatever.  Boycotting BP just won’t work.

For one thing, oil is a commodity.  It’s bought and sold on a worldwide market, with production and prices determined for all of it by cartels like OPEC.  So long as we’re buying gas from *someone*, prices will stay the same, and BP will still be making profits, because you’re never going to get enough people to boycott one gas provider to really hurt their bottom line.

Not to mention, if you refuse to shop at a BP station, you’re probably not hurting BP at all, but rather a small business owner who owns the franchise, since BP doesn’t own most BP stations.  And if you get your gas at a Kroger or a Costco, you just might be buying BP gas anyway.  And you’re going to have to avoid products from BP subsidiaries like Castrol and Wild Bean Cafe.

For another thing, as this excellent Newsweek piece points out, ALL of the oil companies are pretty deplorable.  If you don’t give your money to BP, who are you going to give it to? Exxon, who dumped a bunch of oil on Alaska during the Valdez oil spill and still hasn’t finished paying for all the damages?   Texaco/Chevron, who are accused of dumping toxic waste into the Ecuadorian rainforests? Citgo, whose profits prop up a Venezuelan dictator?  Shell, who are accused of supporting human rights abuses and of environmental degradation in the Niger Delta (40% of the US’s oil imports come from Nigeria, where more oil is spilled by the likes of Shell and ExxonMobil every year than has been spilled at BP’s Deepwater Horizon)?  The piece makes pretty clear, there is no “better” oil company to support.

However, the Newsweek piece also says:

The only way to make this the last oil spill in the gulf is to make oil obsolete. Shall we all hop on our bicycles, charge our plug-in hybrids with wind-generated electricity, swap out the heating oil or natural gas warming our homes for geothermal wells and passive solar?

Didn’t think so.

Why not?

Why can’t we all hop on our bicycles more often? Via the League of American Bicyclists:

According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.

I’ll tell you what– I’m mad about the BP oil spill, and I’m not just going to talk the talk, I’m going to walk the walk. I have a bicycle, but I haven’t been riding it to the store like I know I should, as someone concerned about climate change. Rather than boycotting BP, I’m going to ride my bike if I go to the grocery store this week. Even though it’s hot. Even though it’s hard. Even though I’d really rather not.  And I’m willing to bet there’s a few trips you could make on foot or by bicycle this week, too.

I really just don’t get where Newsweek gets off pooh-pooh-ing what could be a real solution to the problem of our country being held hostage to deplorable companies like BP just because we’re junkies who need our fix of what they’re selling.  If, as this amazing infographic suggests, 71% of our oil goes to transportation, and, as mentioned above, most of our trips are within five miles of our homes, we could seriously cut our oil consumption AND seriously cut companies like BP’s profits if we just hopped on our bikes, walked, or rode public transit for short trips.  It may not be as easy as boycotting BP, but it would go a much longer way toward actually hurting BP’s bottom line.

Sure, we need to lobby the government to more seriously regulate oil companies.  We need to recognize that offshore drilling, with the catastrophic risks that go along with it, is just not worth it, as the same infographic points out that the US generates about 1.5 million barrels of oil each YEAR through offshore drilling but consumes 19.5 million barrels of oil per DAY. (I’d do the math and tell you what percentage of our total oil consumption comes from domestic offshore drilling, but I majored in English, so I don’t know how to do that.)  We need to shift our economy away from petroleum as our primary fuel source.  But the only way for any of that to work is if we each and every one of us seriously cut our fuel consumption.  And to do that, yes, Newsweek, we shall all have to hop on our bicycles and start walking more.  Maybe then we can use the money we’re saving on gas to get solar panels on our roofs and buy plug-in hybrids and invest in geothermal heating.

99 Replies to “boycotting BP?”

  1. What everyone who is calling for BP’s blood fails to realize, is that we created this problem. We, of the gas-guzzling SUV. We, of the air conditioning set to 65° and the heat set to 78°. We of the drive to the convenience store 2 miles from home. We of the commute an hour on the highway. We, the people.

    For a country that ramps up the rhetoric about freedom and independence, our hypocrisy is amazing. We have been beholden to foreign oil powers since the early 1970’s. Richard Nixon angered the OPEC nations by backing Israel, and the result? Oil embargoes, gas shortages, and turmoil. Did we learn? No. President Jimmy Carter put in place rules and regulations to try and stem our increasing dependence on foreign oil, which Ronald Reagan promptly overturned when he got into office. From then on, we simply became more enmeshed in our dependence, to the point of funding a war in Afghanistan against the Soviets in the 80’s, taking Iraq’s side in the Iran-Iraq war, and then having to bail out Kuwait when Saddam Hussein took the technology we gave and used it to take over that nation. Eventually, all this leads to 9/11, as Osama Bin Laden, angered by our “defiling” of Saudi Arabia, in trying to defend it and take back Kuwait, launches an attack on America, using money from his fortune, a fortune partly built on our own money, money we paid for oil.

    It’s interesting to note, that the solar cell has existed since the mid-1950’s, and was instrumental in the Space Race. Windmills and dams have existed forever, it seems. We have had no reason to be tied to oil, save our own laziness and demands for cheaper and cheaper things. Our designs on foreign oil have lost this country’s independence, have bankrupted us more than once, have cost us manufacturing jobs, and lives. If Exxon Valdez and the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster will not turn us against our rabid need for oil, what will?


  2. I will warn you about biking… It becomes addictive. I started riding my bike to work to save money, and ended up staying with that company an extra month longer than I should have.

    I also read that BusinessWeek article, and I believe the writer was pointing out a lack of alternatives. We can’t use electric vehicles because there’s no infrastructure. Geothermal and passive solar cost too much for many people to implement, and most homes aren’t built to maximize that. Wind power is in a similar situation as EVs.

    If no alternative is available, how can one use it?


  3. @Handsome Matt: When cars were first being built, there was no infrastructure. When electricity was first being brought to homes, they were not built to utilize the technology. These are not unsurmountable issues; they have been solve din the past, and they can be solved now. Home solar is not cheap, but it has been made pretty simple and straightforward compared to thirty years ago. As for electric cars, how hard is it to run electric lines to parking lots, and power these lines from solar panels? Every factory building or warehouse or mall has acres of roof that could be covered in solar panels, to generate power. On my travels through Europe, I saw wind power systems everywhere, in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

    This is about will-power. Just as the obese person finds it hard to resist the lure of the chocolate donut, so too America must resist the lure of foreign oil. We have to start investing in the companies that will start bringing about the renewable power revolution, and we have to start cutting off companies that will not hew to the new culture of green. We, the people, have the power, just as we did in the 1700’s, if we choose to use it.


  4. This was a very interesting argument. Coincidentally, I also wrote about my thoughts over the BP boycott a few days ago, and it’s always nice to be able to read others’ perspectives. I would like to be able to convert my house to solar and/or wind power one day. Oh, and I don’t blame you for dismissing Newsweek. I never cared much for that magazine anyway.

    The Codger


  5. Good blog, and unfortunately, it makes sense. Whenever I rant about the speed at which we are destroying our environment to my brilliant environmental economist son, he says, “Mom, recycling is great, but if you really want to make a statement, stop driving. And stop flying.” Sigh…


  6. Barack Petroleum. BP is in bed with current administration. Supports Obama cap and trade energy policy and have been a big contributor. On one hand pushing green policies on the other hand cutting corners when securing their rigs. All this fake concern over the environment is deplorable and a means at taking away our freedoms.


    1. That’s all well and good, Matt, and if you read my post from a couple of days ago, you can see that I’m definitely not a fan of the way Obama has handled petroleum policy OR this spill. However, it’s disingenuous to act like this problem somehow started in the last 2 years that Obama has been in office. As NefariousNewt makes pretty clear above, petroleum has been a big big problem for this country for a long time, a problem exacerbated by Reagan and George W. Bush, and a problem Obama didn’t take seriously enough when he announced his plans to reform the MMS.


  7. Nice to see some people are reacting in this way to the oil spill instead of the way some of the BP protesters are acting. I heard a commentator say the other day “BP is the new Kanye West”, and it’s true. Something big happened that people we hated for, and it lasted for months. But give it a year and no one will be talking about it anymore.


  8. Sarah – an excellent point. BP is just one player in a nasty game. They happen to win the Very Public Natural Disaster Award for this year, but the fact remains, oil companies are pretty much ALL raping the planet to serve us up our demand for cheap fuel.

    You’ve inspired me to try biking to close errands. It’s good for me, too!


  9. Awesome points. BP needs to clean it’s act up ASAP. I don’t think Boycotting BP though is a completely wise thing to do, but still, management just needs a kick up the ass.


  10. Boycotting BP is not a solution. It may make you feel better but its not going to get what you want. If you consider ALL the elements of our economy and even the items you use in your daily life, you cant get away from oil. From the bottles you drink from to the roof on your home and the wood in the walls to the cement in the floor, and the tires on your bike as well as the clothing on your back. Oil and the machines that run on it are necessary in America. You know you cant get away from it! How do you think stores get the inventory to sell you when you ride there on your bike? True, we cant blame Obama for the oil spill. But we can place ALL the blame for the slow reaction to the spill on the sitting president and his administration.


    1. Inspectormatt: I’m well aware that I can’t totally get away from oil. I do try to cut down as much as possible, and that’s all I’m encouraging others to do, to use less. Things I do to use less: I eat locally grown food, so it uses less fuel getting to me; I reuse, recycle, and try to avoid excessive plastic packaging; I ride public transit on my commute to work; I try to bike to the store; I use energy efficient practices in my home. Oil may be necessary in America NOW, but I’m hoping to need less and less of it.


  11. People commenting here sound quite intellectual. I don’t know exactly the use of petroleum but are we of advanced countries allowed to blame the use of petroleum? Is there anybody in advanced countries who doesn’t use plastic for a single day? Toys? Plastic bags of any supermarket? Plastic bottles of any soft drink? PC’s? Any wraps? DVD covers? Cheap ballpoint pen? Paint? Synthetic fibers? Synthetic rubber? Shampoo? Glue? Washing Liquid? Is electricity not generated at least partially at thermal power stations? If you don’t touch or buy any single petroleum product for 24 hours you might be allowed to claim yourself a hero of the century.


    1. Oscar- I never claimed to be living completely petroleum free OR to be a hero. I’m just suggesting that instead of the ubiquitous calls to “Boycott BP,” we should instead make an effort to use less petroleum.


  12. I must say that I disagree. My family and I will not buy gas from bp now (not that we often did before). Even if this doesn’t effect bp, it makes me feel better knowing that I do not pay a company that hurt the United States so badly. Not to mention that they insulted the United States. I honestly could not care less if my not buying bp gas affects the company as a whole, but at least I know that I am not contributing to it.


    1. Hugsandmisses- As long as you know you’re just supporting another equally repellent company and doing nothing to hurt BP, more power to ya. Just make sure you do your research so you don’t accidentally support a BP subsidiary.


  13. Great post! Very well written and cuts straight to the heart of the matter. :)

    We really are a bunch of whiney losers, complaining about high gas prices, when we’re the ones who bought the gas guzzling cars to begin with! We go for what’s convenient rather than what’s right – much like the folks at BP (and all other oil companies for that matter). Fast food, a faster commute; I’ve even witnessed someone hop in their SUV to drive 3 blocks to a Starbucks? WTF?

    If you look hard enough, every company is corrupt. But now is the time to stop complaining and DO something! Quit whining into your lattes, get on a bike, and make a real difference. The extra exercise could do all of us some good.



  14. I agree with a lot of what is being said in criticism and in favor of BP. Let’s re-frame for a sec.

    If you hired someone to fix your plumbing, and they had all the special knowledge and tools to fix it, and all the other plumbers in your city were as good or worse, would you threaten to stop paying the plumber if a leak sprung while he was working?

    BP is one of the leading researchers in alternative fuels, like carbon-negative algae based biodiesel, and solar panels. Just because an accident has occurred is just reactionary. BP will pay for the damages, etc, etc, but the boycott is only slowing the green revolution.


    1. Adam- I sorta get what you’re saying, but the plumber analogy is more like this: You hire a plumber to fix a leak. While he’s working, he sees signs that his work on the pipes might be weak, and one of your pipes has the potential to explode. But he knows if he admits it, you will probably want to hire a different plumber, so they don’t say anything. Later the pipe explodes. First the plumber downplays the extent of the flow. Then he says he had no idea it was going to explode. Then he takes his sweet time fixing it, so all your stuff gets ruined in the process. Then he charges you twice as much to repair it. See what I’m sayin?


  15. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “ride a bike.” I know you know that, too, but I’d like to see your post address that.

    The problem is not with people, it’s with infrastructure. I can’t realistically ride a bike. I have two kids. I am not about to find a bike with three seats, two of which are car seats, and pull those heavy kids all over town. It would take me hours, if I didn’t drop dead of a heart attack first. I also live in the nasty South, and in the summer, I just can’t arrive at work dripping wet and reeking of sweat. That’s not acceptable where I work.

    Do we walk some places? Yes, the couple of places we regularly go that are in walking distance and have safe sidewalks along the route.I also purposefully moved house and took a new job in order to keep my daily travels in one small area. But unlike we love to do when we stay in Europe, we can’t take public transportation here. It’s no good in my area.

    So I think a major piece of the problem isn’t people. It’s infrastructure. We need safe, convenient public transportation everywhere. We need sidewalks and bike lanes. We need to fight urban sprawl. And we need to demand affordable living in all different areas, so that people can actually afford to live near where they work.

    Give people real choices, and they just might start making better ones.


    1. Amy- I totally agree we need better infrastructure. But it’s hard to get people motivated to lobby their cities’ leaders for bike lanes and walking paths and better zoning until they’ve tried to bike and walk and realized how hard it is. We can’t get better public transit until people with money and influence start riding public transit and working to make it better.

      And I totally get that things are different for people with kids, and in different job situations. But there are plenty of people out there like me who have no real excuse not to be doing better than we are.


  16. We may not be able to cease the use of oil completely and all at once, but we must start reducing the amount we use to levels that are sustainable without tying ourselves to foreign oil. Yes, we use a lot of plastic, but much of that plastic can be recycled, and that that can’t, can be re-purposed or reused. We have a way to solve every problem; what America needs now is the resolve to solve the problems.


  17. @Amy B.: The do what you can. Every little thing counts. Don’t buy bottled water. Make one less trip to the store each week/month. Keep your tires inflated. Make sure lights are turned off, and turn air conditioning up or heat down. And demand resources in your town/city/county/state be put toward making better public transportation. That alone would reduce oil use and create jobs in creating the new infrastructure and running the trains/trolleys/subways/buses.


  18. Thanks for your thoughtful post. I’ve read elsewhere that boycotting BP will much more likely hurt a franchise owner rather than BP itself. The other day, I heard a journalist say, “Instead of boycotting BP, how about boycotting oil?” Unfortunately, I can’t remember the journalist’s name. But he — and you — have a good point. I don’t think I can completely stop using oil, but I can try to lower my usage of it. Yep, I could bike more on those short trips. When it comes time to buy my next car, I can buy an electric car, a hybrid, or a car with much better gas mileage than my current one. So, yes, I agree with you that we can do things to help out. We won’t completely go off of oil tomorrow, but we can try to take steps to improve our oil dependence.


  19. I agree with everything you say. I’ve decided not to boycott gasoline, especially because all three of my hummers love gasoline. I’ve decided to Boycott dating British men. Normally I would not do this because I’m a sucker for that accent, but I think it’s the right thing to do. I’m going to be writing a post about it later today.

    Thanks, Andrea.


  20. Doesn’t boycotting this citrus-colored monster just hurt the little guy? Samir Littleguy is my neighborhood purveyor of BP products and he’s hurtin’ — hurtin’ from all of this.


  21. @nefariousnewt You’re preaching to the choir. I already do all that. It still doesn’t make as much difference as it would if I were able to scrap my car. I’m frustrated that I don’t have the choice to make that big of a difference right now.


  22. Amy B makes exactly the right point! And as Thomas L. Freidman has pointed out, those little cutbacks you make are overshadowed by a small city in China or India.

    When gas reached $4.00 a gallon, I believe, it was one of the triggering factors of the Great Recession. We’re not addicted to oil, we’re entirely and utterly dependent on it. When cigarette prices go up: people quit smoking. When gas prices went up, we stopped paying our bills and making purchases.

    When you say boycott the oil industry, you’re asking people to give up their entire way of life. That’s not an easy thing to do.

    And NefariousNewt, you saw those things in Europe because: IT’S EUROPE! Smaller land area, higher population densities, a certain trust in the state, and high taxes make that kind of living feasible (mostly). We have none of that, nor the attitude. For any environmental movement to really take off, it has to show immediate benefit (like the Clean Air Act in the late 60s), and be either better, faster, or cheaper than the current systems.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a strident environmentalist; but I’m also a realist. If we want any gains in sustainable living, then it has to be competitive in an open market. Right now it isn’t. I’m working to change that, but it’s going to take some time.


    1. Handsome Matt- I’m beginning to think you didn’t read my post. I didn’t say we’d be able to eliminate oil entirely. We do have to use less. And I’m just asking people to do what they can, not give up their entire way of life. What exactly are YOU doing? What exactly do you propose other than belittling others’ efforts to do better?


  23. Very intelligent post. I think with the vast range of electric and hybrid vehicles available (including SUVs and high performance sports cars), there’s simply no excuse for America’s rampant oil addiction. We’ve had the patented technology since Nikola Tesla’s era and he was a contemporary of Edison – so the issue has always been a lack of political will, not a lack of technology. As long as Big Oil keeps funding campaigns, action on this issue is going to have to come from the people. The best boycott of BP would be to purchase electric vehicles – anything else is meaningless in the long run.


  24. Hi,
    The only solution is for us to be less dependent on oil. Back in March I wrote on the Tava Blog ( about electric bikes and how electricity will play an important role in advancing us towards clean-energy and less dependence on oil.

    As much as I would love to ride more, electric or otherwise, the one thing holding me back is that our communities do not offer bikers the infrastructure needed to simply feel safe on our bikes. I feel that the risk of bodily injury is greater riding a bike to work than driving in my car. My path to work is one with no sidewalks or bike trails, little light and heavy traffic. Unfortunately our communities just are not designed for modes of transportation other than cars.

    The key to promoting bike riding is to develop communities that support and facilitate biking. Like adding bike paths. Or bringing back the local Main Street – so a person can get groceries from somewhere other than a super store at the Mall. That way we can become less dependent on oil companies like BP and more dependent on our own two feet.


  25. Well put!

    Boycotting BP isn’t enough. Oil-dependency has got to go, and as consumers we need to look at where we can personally cut our dependency (even if it is hard or inconvenient).

    A few weeks before the oil spill disaster, I committed myself to a year-long “no driving” rule. My blog “The Passion Project” details the experience.

    It was hard as hell at first to quit driving, but now it feels good, especially as the oil spill continues to harm our ecosystem. Biking & walking are guilt-free modes of transportation that we need to finally take seriously, along with alternative energy transportation.

    Thanks for this informative blog!


  26. I’m glad I read all the comments because I was going to write almost exactly what Amy B. wrote. When gas prices got out of hand I bought a bike and committed to reducing my oil consumption. I did a pretty good job too, biking in hot, humid weather to work, the grocery store, the gym, the post office. I practically broke my own arm patting myself on the back for choosing to live in a “city” that allowed me to ditch my car for so many errands.

    And then I had a kid.

    The best I can do now is try to buy local. I do a lot of baby-item swapping with friends so plastic toys get reused instead of thrown out. We switched to cloth diapers. I have a water bottle I refill. We set our thermostat very low in the winter and wear sweaters. We have a hot water heater that runs on natural gas rather than oil. We replaced our furnace with a more efficient one. But even with all that stuff I don’t feel like we’ve done ANYTHING substantial. But I guess something is better than nothing.

    Unfortunately, “Boycott BP” is easier than doing ANY of the above, so I’m pretty sure 90% of the population would rather just stick with that.


  27. @Suzanne: That’s just the trouble with this country — we always want to do the easy thing. It does no good to boycott BP and pour that money into Exxon/Mobil’s coffers. And while it doesn’t seem like a lot of little things help, they do. What we have to do is get other people to do them. It’s not enough for just you and I to do it — America needs to get on board. President Carter was able to get a lot of energy conservation measures passed and make a lot of people of aware of how they conserve, because the ’73 Oil Embargo was still fresh in everyone’s minds. We’ve forgotten what long lines at the gas pumps are like. It’s time for everyone to do their part.


  28. The current administration should definitely be using this as an excuse to push the clean energy agenda and try to promote a gradual end to the use of fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy. Oh, wait, they’re doing that already, aren’t they?


  29. I liked your post – brought up a lot of interesting points. I dont think biking is a solution for everyone. Sure if you live in a community or urban city where everything is pretty close. Unless you are a seriuos hardcore biker, you arent going to get very far in the suburbs of Houston TX. Especially with a kid in tow and 100 degree weather and no bike trails or sidewalks along the freeway. I dont have a solution, I live in the oil and gas capital of the U.S. And I am mad as hell at BP and all the greedy oil companies.


  30. So we should just go on openly buying products from BP? Pretending it’s all good? I use mass transit (NG powered) as much as I can. I’m doing what I can (since I don’t live/work in a situation where I can bicycle to work) to reduce my dependency on petroleum products.

    But IMHO, silence implies consent and even approval. So pardon me if I decide not to purchase product at a BP branded station — and I used to work for them, more’s the shame.


  31. Bingo. I love when the email chain letter goes around telling people not to buy gas on the third Wednesday after the fourth full moon. That isn’t going to do anything except give them record profits the day after. We’d all be better off if we would do as you say and use human powered modes of transportation.

    And it would help fight another US national problem… Obesity.


  32. Thank you, Sarah, for pointing out how ignorant a boycott would be. There are a TON more reasons, too, but you hit the high points and I applaud you for taking what is by and large an unpopular stand.
    I live on the Gulf coast and we are likely just days — if not hours — away from the stark, stinking, devastating reality of this gusher hitting our shores. And as much as I detest BP right now, a boycott is the wrong way to direct anger right now. I wish folks would channel that anger into something productive…like writing their representatives and senators…like getting on a bike (for the exercise to work off the anger, if nothing else)…to join a local environmental cause that is doing real work.
    Kudos again for standing up and making a statement. I’ve been doing the same.

    By the way….I posted a blog this morning breaking down the President’s speech last night. You can read it here:

    My best to you!


  33. I’m as much for getting off of fossil fuels as the next person, but I don’t see it as very practical to ride a bicycle to buy my groceries. A car is much more useful in that I can fit multiple bags in it, not everybody is as into exercising (that would require turning everybody into a health buff, which is obviously a good thing, just very unlikely), and it’s much quicker.

    As you mention in your post, we must lobby the government, but not only in regulating the oil companies. We MUST begin building renewable energy infrastructures now, instead of continually procrastinating. We’ve heard for years that we will move towards clean energy, the most recent being yesterday’s presidential speech, yet we have seen only minor progress.

    As long as our infrastructure is built on petroleum, I don’t blame the citizens for taking advantage of the benefits of technologies like cars. It is up to the government and corporations to change the infrastructure and provide us with clean alternatives. Of course, the oil companies will do all they can to prevent this change, but what if the government placed incentives on investing in clean energy, we may see those “evil” companies change their minds, because after all they are all about the buck.


    1. Gregw89- I shop once a week for my two-person household, so, with a basket on the front of my bike and a backpack, I find it pretty easy to bike to the grocery store. In my case, it’s also just down a “greenway” (a trail made after some railroad tracks were removed) from my house, so I don’t have to bike on the streets in order to get there, so it’s a more achievable errand for me to run on my bike than some others. I’m all about encouraging people to take small steps to make achievable progress for them. I get that, as many commenters have pointed out, it’s harder to bike if you have kids or live in the suburbs, but it’s about finding ways to cut down on petroleum consumption that work for you and your family.


  34. I don’t remember their being nearly as much outrage when the Exxon Valdiz spilt oil. Oh, yeah it was American.

    I agree with Sarah. This was no deliberate act, and boycotting BP may just stem the flow of remedial cash.

    After 2 weeks in Europe I was staggered by how many ride bikes, rather than drive cars.

    You don’t need much oil on a bike.

    The Torrey Canyon disaster hit my home county, you’d never know it now. Nature regained control.



  35. Excellent article! Yes, like universal health care, it is all in, or all out, or we are just delaying the inevitable failure. Half measures do little to nothing to solve the issues we have with BP and other oil companies and these half measures can actually make things worse. It is time we started putting our time, money and energy into doing something that works. We need vote with our dollars and our feet instead of just asking someone else to do something about what we don’t want to happen while we continue to support this industry with our patronage. When we continue to support unethical corporations in maintaining our unsustainable habits, we make ourselves as responsible for the result as they are.

    Maybe we need to direct some of that angry at our own failings and cap our own gusher of decadent wants. So when you point that finger notice the three pointing back at you.


  36. I gave up my car when I moved to San Francisco in ’02, because it was just so ridiculously impossible to find parking and get around on crowded streets. After a year or so of public transit (which I love sometimes) I decided to try riding my bike across town to work. It was way easier and faster than I anticipated and it was a blast. I fell instantly in love with biking all over again like I did when I was a kid, only more seriously. It was also great to feel more connected with the city, and when I joined all the other commuters riding down Market Street I really felt like I was part of a community. It also turned me into an athlete, I was never very athletic and was pretty scrawny and sucked at sports as a teenager; but after commuting for a while my body started to resemble those of underwear models. I’d never been the sort that could join a gym, gyms seemed boring, but biking to work was fun and didn’t even seem like exercise. Of course it’s not always 100% fun, it can be hard at times but while I may feel a little hesitant to get on my bike in the morning I always am glad I did after the fact, it wakes me up and makes me feel great.

    Now I live in Colorado and my commute is over 10 miles one way. I don’t ride every day but about 50% of the year and I plan to bike more over the next year even during colder, wetter weather as I want to train for competitive racing.

    Bottom line is biking is fun, and it makes you look and feel great. And it’s cheeper than a gym membership. Not supporting BP and reducing your carbon footprint are just icing on the cake. And I’m not just some crazy guy, I’ve heard similar stories from all kinds of people from all over the country.

    Oh yeah, and, carrying your groceries back home is really not hard if you have a good basket or a rack or two with pannier bags.


  37. This is a great post. TIME Magazine recently compiled a list of “The Dirty Dozen” responsible for the scandal, and “The American Driver” made the list. Commenters who have lamented the lack of infrastructure available to support biking and walking in this country’s suburban and rural areas are right to complain, though.

    I remember returning home to my suburban town after a semester studying abroad in Germany. I had a doctor’s appointment, and thought that since the office was only 2 miles from my house, I should bike there (in Germany, I had biked or took a streetcar from my dorm in a rural village to a university in the city, which was 3 miles away via a river trail, as well as to the grocery store, bank, and other key spots). However, as I planned my route, I realized that biking would be a dangerous choice. For nearly half the trip, I’d have to travel an extremely busy road with no bike lane; I’d also have to cross a highway and four lanes of speeding traffic. Baffled, I realized that I simply could not bike the 2 miles– in resignation, I grabbed my car keys. Outside of the U.S.’s big cities, I think many people find themselves in this situation.

    Then, for the past few years, my husband and I have lived in a rural area which, though beautiful, lacks any form of public transportation, and we have to drive to everything. Our work is taking us to Germany for several years, and I’m definitely excited to return to a country that provides so many “green” transportation options.


  38. The state of California spends more on fuel for transport than any other country on this planet. That speaks volumes of US fuel spending. Why doesnt the state of California have a good public transport system? Is it the Cartel of the Automobile companies?

    Someone on this post commented that biking becomes addictive etc. etc. Why doesn’t the govt. hike the prices of oil. Then everyone will use bicycle, walk or use public transport.

    In India (atleast in my state of Karnataka), one cannot get an electricity connection(New houses) if the house does not have a solar water heater. No water connection if the house does not have a Rain harvest system. When the govt. sets the rules, it is but inevitable you follow them.

    Try to make people get addicted to public transport. Have good buses and trains to roam around the city. I dont think there is any movement or public initiative in this regard. I hope you guys wake up soon and make amends for the huge carbon footprint you have left behind.


  39. BP should be made to pick up all the bills of cleaning their mess. No way should taxpayers be made to shoulder the brunt of their mistakes. That’s the only language capitalists understand : pay attention to things like health and safety of everybody or they wont make any profit.


    1. Rod- I agree, though legally, I’m not sure that can happen. There are caps to how much companies can be made to pay out for these sorts of things, and legally, cleanup is the responsibility of the federal government.


  40. What most of you don’t understand is that there is no replacement or even combination of replacements for oil. If we were suddenly to have oil cut off from us, in the United States, for various reasons (I’ll say these in order of most likely to not: Peak Oil, Accidents, Weather, Politics), then our entire way of life would collapse. Each and every single thing in your life is somehow dependent on oil. Food, cosmetics, all plastic, all transportation, all manufacturing, birth, death, everything in between is related to our is borne right out of oil. Everyone is brainwashed that we can “transition” to renewables. It’s not going to happen. Get over it. Start preparing to live like they did in 1700. That’s my schpeel.


  41. Oh my… Well Miss Bufflo:

    To begin with I was hardly belittling others efforts. Merely explaining why so many others are unable to join in. Because there is no other option!

    Suppose I’m overweight or old, or it’s the dead of winter with three feet of snow: How do I bike and get groceries? And thanks to zoning laws, the closest store is a few miles. All well and good in Ohio during most of the summer and the fall: but the winters are awful. What do I do then?

    Furthermore, I just spent three and a half of the last five years working at an outdoor education facility teaching children the importance of conservation, and demonstrating that it can, in fact be done. I also was lucky enough to live on site, meaning my commute was walking fifty feet. At last count, I had direct interaction with upwards of 6,000 youth. And I stopped by tonight, five of my former campers are now staff members.

    Secondly, I’ve been avidly writing since december on sustainability and conservation, offering up solutions that are a bit more impressive than just switching from incandescent bulbs and turning up the A/C.

    I’ve also advocated the reworking and installation of an effective mass transit system in my city of Columbus and outlined how it could be done fairly inexpensively, and explained that a few simple changes in zoning codes would automatically foster more sustainable and environmental building practices. I’ve also called for more solar and wind power generation and have highlighted that the research needs to be in the transmission and storage of energy: not in the production of energy itself.

    Beyond that: I recently started a design company with a focus on sustainability. And to help offset the carbon footprint we donate 10% of the proceeds from everything sold to social, economic and environmental initiatives. Not even Patagonia does that.

    And what do you do? Besides write a few posts about BP and buying from a CSA?


    1. Handsome Matt- Thanks for coming back. Though perhaps I should have mentioned it in the post, I totally get that some people are unable to bike, but this post was about what *I* can do, and as a single, able-bodied person, I really have no excuse not to bike more than I do. I also ride public transit instead of driving to work, because I do not feel safe biking over the bridge that I would have to cross to get to my office, though my husband does bike to work. I do other things to, but I don’t think the point here is to get into a who’s more eco friendly penis-measuring contest, but rather to say it really is the opposite of helpful to tell someone who is doing the best she can not to even bother with her efforts because she can’t single-handedly wean America off oil. I’m moving in two weeks, and I look forward to learning about the public-transit and pedestrian challenges in my new city and working to make it a better place for people to get around without cars. I applaud your efforts and hope you keep them up.


  42. A bold idea we “the people” could embrace:

    The Gulf needs help now and will need it for decades.

    People who use oil and dirty energy have a responsibility to get us off oil.

    Boycotting BP will not do anything – turning around BP and our addiction to oil will.

    Hence – BUYcott BP. The idea in it’s infancy:


  43. Amazing…Nobody is looking at all these problems (worldwide) from the metaphysically perspective. Little spoken: Thoughts are energy building a consciousness. Many thoughts = collective consciousness.
    If we are creating our own reality…thoughts = energy. Very powerful. That means what we see today is created by the collective consciousness. (it’s completely true but part of it).
    That means you, you and you are responsible for all these things.
    And this brings us back to some phrases many times heard before:
    You are the change! And because of that please boycott bp as long as you can or like. But do something. There are many things on earth you might boycott. If you don’t like it or agree with something…get up and be the change. Take your money out of the big banks and look for a company who is dealing to your satisfaction. Ask and read about background. And first of all: Don’t believe everything from everybody. The most obvious need the most attention. Use your gut and have doubts. Amen


  44. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    I agree that boycotting BP isn’t the answer. I believe that we should each do our part to conserve resources, but what works for one person may not work for another.

    Riding a bike isn’t an option for me because of physical limitations. But there are other things I do, like recycling, using environmentally friendly products, and consolidating my trips into town to use less fuel.

    The BP oil spill is going to be around for a very long time in one way or another, it’s unknown how long-lasting or far-reaching the affects from it will be.


  45. Boycotting a company like BP won’t be effective because Americans love to complain but want to continue to live comfortable lives. The American dollar has ruined the US. This is a result of the people wanting money. Why would you send someone out to handle oil when you don’t know what to do should a crisis like this should happen? For the American dollar. Now Americans were the main complainers of the gas prices rising in the last two years, and when BP tried to find new sources for gas to lower the gas prices, this is what happened. Now Americans are complaining about it. Americans are angry, but are responsible. So instead of complaining, they need to be angry at themselves and realize this their nation too, and they have just as much responsibility for it as BP and the president.


  46. Many of the comments here seem a little ignorant. First, Obama’s administration did respond rather timely to this crisis. I know it’s been repeated and ranted that he hasn’t by the uninformed “experts” on all sides of the political spectrum, but the copious amounts of data available in regards to the quickness of the response reveals Obama’s competency. Within days of the oil rig’ big kaboom, Obama’s administration was already on the scne and rallying support, censuring BP, and just overall trying to formulate a plan to deal with the spill. Sadly, however, everything at long last has utterly failed to contain it, and Obama is being put on the chopping block by everyone because he isn’t as magical as people expect a Messiah to be.


  47. All these talks about bicycles, hybrid cars, sustainability etc is a sneak preview of what the future holds for our daily living conveniences. Oil brought us to where we are now. Did we come this far only to fall back to Bedrock? Are we ready for a re-evolution? I agree with you bright people about caring for the environment, but realistically speaking, until we have the will and the resolve, we should be thinking of refashioning those emergency cut-off valve.


  48. But as an ordinary person, living nowhere near The Gulf of Mexico, but angry and concerned, what other option do I have to let BP know how I feel? And if BP begin to feel the pinch then won’t the others get worried and improve their practices?


  49. Quiet an intelligent argument. And you are correct in saying that there is just no point in Boycotting BP. We as the human race – need to cut off our umbilical cord to carbon and nuclear based forms of energy. Its really the only way that the environment will have a fighting chance for the future.



  50. There would be no point in boycotting BP anyway. Even if it all went smoothly and no one bought any of their products and they started to make big losses all it would do is hurt the people in the gulf more. See BP can keep trying all these solutions to fix the problem because they have money, and the day they finally do pay for the damages its because they have money. if you boycott and they DONT have money then NOTHING can be done to fix the problem.


  51. What a beautiful article! No wonder it got into “Freshly Pressed”. ;)

    I almost cried at your blog post and NefariousNewt’s comment. (Ok, “crying” is an exaggeration, but I felt a burst of satisfaction inside.)

    I am so happy when Americans are THINKERS! I admire you for saying that there IS an option. That you will TRY to make a difference, even if it’s not so convenient for you, even if you will sweat more, even if it’s out of the comfort zone.

    Exactly, it’s the people’s fault. Also BP’s of course, but we are also to blame. Come on, driving 2 miles to the supermarket is preposterous. (Unless there is a lot of goods to carry back home I’d say.) But even so… Going to work? Going to a friend’s house? Why use the effing car ALL the time??

    Sorry, getting a bit carried away here. People don’t realize what harm they are doing! Using the water sprinkler TOO much, wasting water usage, having the air-condition on ALL day… I mean come on, are human beings so fragile?! They cannot stand a bit of heat?

    Argh sorry, again getting carried away. I really hope that you will change some hearts and minds with your post. That some people will read it and say, “Hey, maybe she’s right. I can make a difference. It’s also up to me.”

    Take care and keep on trying :) :)


  52. @ Jared

    You are unbelievably ignorant. you say that it will never happen – then clearly you have not bothered to even investigate how efficient and abundant alternative energy sources can be. clearly you dont know a thing about Geo-thermal energy.

    Maybe you should look into that before you say that people must just “get over it”. This topic is on the our very livelihoods, of every species of animal and plant that call this world home. And you dont just get over it when your home is threatened..



  53. The oil industry drilling procedures go back so many years. We knew them in little Trinidad in the W.I back in the early forties. The procedures evolved over time, and were found both on shore and off, to keep you out of trouble.
    In the string of reports coming to me out of Houston and elsewhere, I read time and time again, on this GOM blowout, where the old established procedures were no followed.
    The well would have been an amazingly profitable well, no doubt about that. But the old established procedures were sidetracked time and gain, through what has amounted to penny pinching stupidity. And that is that !


  54. Great post. I think the solution is a one-two punch made over and over by all of us:

    1) Keep making little changes in your life that reduce your dollars going to products and services that use oil (like buying less plastic items).

    2) Keep sending emails and making calls to businesses and government leaders pressuring them to keep inching our society toward less oil dependence. There’s so much they can still do immediately to help.




  55. Wow, great piece! And I couldn’t agree more! I’m from the Netherlands, I don’t own a car or drivers licence (which I often regret). My work is about 20 kilometres from my home and I go by train every day. I do my shopping by foot or bike… It’s not so difficult and I get some excercise on the way!
    We, as the people of this world, are addicted to strange things as fuel, wasting energy etc.
    Is it so hard to switch off the tv instead of leaving it on stand by? I guess it’s just as hard as walking, or cycling around the block for shopping…
    There are so many better ways of getting energy than drilling for fossil fuels, but aslong as the public doesn’t change their habits nothing will change… This goes for energy as well as for the food industry (demand affortable healthy food!)


  56. Sara

    Going beyond petroleum means taking action first with your spending habits. Convenience is not on a bike unfortunately – it is an immediate statement that we can easily revert too for sporadic random events like Deep Horizon.

    My own experience, from cycling to creating a documentary film on our addiction to oil(LUBIE LOVE – The Movie), is another example of how stale the debate is because we WANT and NEED a nice home for our family, our dogs and our things that we cherish. The press – whether a Newsweek, Business Week or Fortune – are only going to expose the issue so far: for jobs are at stake.

    Structurally, you, me and each free spirited individual, can do the following to quickly change the course that developed economies and American society is on:

    1. Arrange at your company for teleworking
    2. Order your goods and services online
    3. Ride your bike for exercise, to be social and for charitable causes
    4. Make your next car purchase as conflict free as possible. Demand quality, safety and high fuel efficiency from all makes and models.
    5. Contact your elected officials for the Modernization of our Utility Grid infrastructure. The immediate funding will come from state and federal oil and utility consumer purchases and corporate investment.
    6. 10% structural unemployment will drop when a re-tooled, re-educated workforce can be taught today how to harness electricity cleanly.

    These basic steps ensure that you and I can have a brighter day than that left by earlier generations focused on self serving motivations.

    BP is a partner in our future because we allow it. As for cycling, make sure to have an extra spare tube nearby.


  57. Buycotting BP is the solution.

    This is an inflection point for BP, but more importantly for us.

    As most agree – unless we boycott all oil – spending energy doing so is a waste of time for many reasons.

    Buycotting BP could be the solution:

    As it’s been pointed out – the reality is we need oil.

    We need SAFE oil.


  58. We have hundreds or thousands of devices can be powered by solar panels, the type that can be wrapped and stored in a location which is very low. Things that can be activated as mobile phones, laptops, digital cameras, CD players, small radios and many other items. To use this type of solar panel simply unroll and place in the sun and soon begin to produce electricity. These cells are designed with the special ingredients that help to concentrate the sun’s energy. As the rays strike the earth is a special material that absorbs energy and begin the process of converting energy to electricity.


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