Local News

Industry experts say a BP boycott has little effect

Posted June 17, 2010 4:31 p.m. EDT
Updated June 17, 2010 6:49 p.m. EDT

— Is a boycott of BP the most effective way for consumers to show their frustration about the eight-week oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that's considered to be among the largest in the world?

More than 640,000 people on Facebook think so, but experts in the petroleum industry said Thursday that doing so might be misguided, as it will likely only hurt local franchise owners who sell the British energy company's products.

"To hurt a local service station dealer, simply because his sign says BP, that's not actually getting at London and getting at BP," said Bill Weatherspoon, executive director of the North Carolina Petroleum Council, a trade association that represents petroleum retailers.

Gavan J. Fitzsimons, a professor of marketing and psychology at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, said that in reality, there is little any one person can do about the oil spill.

"If you skip a BP Station, it's an illusion of control," he said. "It will make us feel better in the short-term."

"Potentially long-term, if you can get enough people boycotting, the negative media attention could affect share prices. That hurts them," he added.

April Kappler, of Raleigh, said she has taken a different approach to protesting the petroleum company.

"I can't stop using BP. It's not the owners of the BP stores fault," Kappler said. "So, chopping up my BP credit card was my way of saying, 'I don't agree with what's happened.'"

Meanwhile, public outrage over the oil spill continued Thursday as BP's chief executive officer told a U.S. House subcommittee that he was "deeply sorry" for the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that triggered the spill and killed 11 workers and injured 17 others.

"I understand the seriousness of the situation, the frustrations and fears that continued to be voiced," Tony Hayward said.

One protester disrupted the hearing when she confronted Hayward and had to be forcibly removed from the room by Capitol police.

The woman, identified as Diane Wilson, shouted to Hayward from the back of the room: "You need to be charged with a crime."