So this Memorial Day, as we reflect on the heroes that have helped make our country great, we are also making plans to kick off our summer properly and for many that means..road trip. But as I was thinking about places my family could run off to this weekend I was sent an invitation for a group on …Facebook that read: XXX invited you to join the Facebook group “STOP BUYING BP GAS UNTIL THEY STOP/CLEAN THE OIL SPILL”. Hmmm..I appreciate the notion but will not buying gas really fix the problem? For anyone living under a rock, there is an oil spill/leak/spew of epic proportions happening in the Gulf of Mexico that is now devastating wildlife homes and impacting fisheries, fishermen and many other trades that depend on that region.
All kinds of reactions have occurred as a result including a survey done on the front page of the USA Today last week that asked what you were going to do differently as a result of the spill. The number one response was…nothing. There were others including, “drive less” and “eat less fish” that were mentioned but I had trouble understanding how we would manage that or how it would fix the problem at hand. I mean, even if I drive less, or if everyone drives less, we won’t stop all together and until there is a real alternative en masse, we still need to pump gas, right? So, I pretty much threw the notion of not driving out the window.
But then I received the invitation to the Facebook group mentioned above. And it was sent to me from someone I know really well. Somehow that made the USA Today survey feel that much more significant. But to boycott gas, or even BP is not to just hurt “big oil” but the thousands of small business, mom and pop franchisee owners that run the individual stations. And what about the tourist industry? Are we willing to sacrifice them too? Or are you and the family going to bicycle your way to your weekend vacation spot?
The answer is obviously in new technologies and the scaling of these technologies. It is in the hope of the Chevy Volt, of the fixes for and continued success of the Toyota Prius, and of all the new vehicles that will use alternative fuels. The unintended consequences of trying to punish oil by curtailing travel without a viable alternative is in many ways, irresponsible. So is the lack of prevention that allowed the oil to leak in the first place. But let’s face it, any of the big oil companies could have been the one in this position. And the real concern should be first, cleaning up this mess and then how to prevent future spills.
Then, let’s decide how best to move forward progressively. Going cold turkey does not seem like the answer as too many people are affected negatively from these rash decisions. Does shutting down oil drilling help gas prices? Make energy cleaner? Make us less dependent on cultures whose business practices we disagree with? Are we best served by punishing, fining, boycotting or even shutting down BP (or an oil co for that matter) or by perhaps using this tragedy to engage BP in development of alternatives that can be brought to bear more quickly?
BP’s public perception has obviously been greatly damaged by this event and they will likely be very open to going above and beyond to correct it. So, can we not take this negative and turn it into a positive by using this public awareness and energy to get BP and their counterparts to the table to not only prevent future tragedies but to figure out alternatives? Or have we become a society so bent on punishment, fining and regulation that we can’t begin to trust that a large company might want to use its vast resources to find alternatives that are good for the environment, the economy and themselves too? Just food for thought as you sit in your car on your way out of town this weekend….