The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday April 23rd

Boycott of big oil hits small businesses

While driving down the road the other day, I passed a BP gas station. I pass them often, but this one was noticeable.

The gas pumps were tied down with bright yellow plastic strips, signs had been removed from the doors and darkness permeated the inside.

That’s when it hit me. In the wake of dark, gushing oil, dying animals and livelihoods destroyed: Are we supposed to buy oil from the company responsible for a travesty, or do we support our local businesses?

Such a moral question does not have a clear-cut answer.

I come from a family that has always owned their own businesses and sought to promote others, but seeing pictures of oil-drenched animals makes that choice especially difficult.

I decided to try to contact local owners to understand what they are dealing with in this situation.

Out of the 10 BP gas stations in Chapel Hill, two are shut down, and the others barely talked to me.

I was hung up on twice and another refused to give me the last name of the owner. A few said that they are not locally owned, but corporately owned. Only one was able to confirm that it was locally owned.

Most businesses signed contracts with BP stating they would only use BP gasoline for the duration of the contract.

My own searching through the Internet made the case even more interesting. Arguments for each side are strong. Many people argue BP will not be affected by a ban, while others disagree.

Some are wondering whether their gas dollars are going to aid the cleanup of the spill and whether or not that would be a good thing.

Under these circumstances, deciding can be difficult.

Not only was I baffled by the responses from these gas stations, but their anger made it even harder for me to stay objective.

As I contemplated their rude responses, I realized their underlying issue could be fear. Fear of losing a business, fear of saying the wrong thing or fear of a journalist.

Across the country, celebrities of all forms are banding together in opposition of BP and in favor of a boycott. And on a more local level, a group recently protested in Durham.

But before we jump on the bandwagon and agree on our frustration with BP, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves who we are really hurting.

Let’s make sure we aren’t just finding a scapegoat to take out our anger on. Don’t just go along with what other people are doing or saying if you don’t know your facts.

But we are not any better than the problem or the company at fault if we don’t take the time to truly understand the impact.

Regardless of the stance you take, whether you drive by BP or stop and fill up, make sure you’ve sorted through the facts first.

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