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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jun. 24, 2010 7 years ago

Our Observation

Boycott misses mark

Last week, we wrote about how the Gulf oil spill is affecting Orlando seafood suppliers and restaurants in the form of higher prices and a dwindling supply. BP has put $20 billion in a fund meant to keep these businesses from nose-diving. But the owners of the BP gas stations, all of which are independently owned and operated, are not seeing relief.

There's been a rising tide against the British petroleum company, which is understandable. People need to vent their frustrations over this national disaster, but at the same time, we need to make sure we're not hurting ourselves. That's exactly the effect of boycotting BP gas stations.

The oil company doesn't own any gas stations in this state, and owns only 700 of the 13,000 stations nationwide. The stations in Orlando are franchised — operated by residents who are probably struggling to make a living as it is.

There have been many protests in the Orlando and Daytona areas. Facebook pages dedicated to a BP boycott have garnered more than 600,000 supporters. Some stations have been vandalized. All efforts are missing their target.

We are trying to stand up for the environment, fishermen and restaurant owners, but we are villainizing the gas station owners and their employees. A boycott does nothing to help the victims of this disaster.

When customers don't pull in to fuel up at BP stations, the oil giant will just sell its excess gas to other stations. Lower revenues at the BP stations force owners to cut employees' hours and even consider layoffs. With Orlando's — and the state's — unemployment rate already in the double digits, we can't afford to have more people out of work.

Protestors have been fairly levelheaded and even apologized to gas station owners for their demonstrations, saying in effect, "It's nothing personal, but we have no other way to show our anger." There are other ways.

Move the protests away from the gas stations and make it clear what the target is — the corporation and not the gas stations themselves. The website is not calling for a boycott, but a seizure of BP's assets to use in relief measures. Even talk show host Larry King is doing the right thing — a telethon he hosted with other celebrities on Monday raised $1.7 million for the United Way and the National Wildlife Foundation and the Nature Conservancy, according to CNN.

But some celebrities are using their star power to make a bigger mess. Recording artists including Korn, the Backstreet Boys and Lady Gaga have pledged not to use fuel sold by BP or their affiliates on their tours this year, according to a statement issued by Korn's Jonathan Davis. This is not the way to get back at the company. Their efforts could be so much better spent.

They're mad, we get it. Who isn't? But let's not prey on our innocent neighbors.

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