The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Oil Spill Protests: Who Gets Hurt?

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted June 8, 2010

Anti-oil activists have found an outlet for their frustration over the Gulf oil spill. In several states this week, they are protesting, holding vigils, and calling for boycotts against BP.

The demonstrations are likely to be similar to the protest held in Washington last Friday where Public Citizen and seven other activist groups waved signs, chanted and held a mock citizen's arrest of BP CEO Tony Hayward.

But there is one notable exception: Most of the protests being held in cities throughout the United States are planned for individual service stations or convenience stores bearing the BP logo. However, because the company doesn't own or operate the vast majority of the BP-branded U.S. retail outlets, the impact on the company is doubtful.

"Boycotts--all they hurt is the small-business guy," Scott Heppe told the Milwaukee Journal. "He's the guy just trying to make a living and squeak by." Heppe, who is a third-generation operator of a service station in Milwaukee, is a BP franchisee. In fact, all 675 BP outlets in Wisconsin are franchises. BP doesn't own or operate any of them.

"These are contracts that stretch multiple years," Jay Ricker of Ricker Oil Company says. Ricker operates BP-branded stations in Indiana that he purchased from BP in 2000 and 2008. "If they don't buy that gallon of gas from the local BP store, they are hurting the local business more than anybody else," he added. (NACSonline)

Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen says his group "doesn't mean any harm" to service station owners, and he admits that Public Citizen knows that the service stations aren't owned by BP. Yet, he says protests are a legitimate way for consumers to voice their anger.

Ricker, who also serves as the chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), had one word for Slocum's statement: "Ridiculous."

More information about who owns service stations and convenience stores is available here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.