Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Exxon Mobil boycott

I have a friend who dutifully forwards glurge to me every day. A week or two ago she sent me the ExxonMobil boycott chain mail in which recipients are asked to stop buying gas from Exxon Mobil gas stations and to instead patronize competing stations. The idea is that these stations will reduce their prices; we consumers then use the cheaper gas at XOM and boycott another set of gas stations. We game the "system" for our financial benefit.

I hit "Reply-All" and kindly explained why this scheme does not work. Tim Habb at the Environmental Economics blog does a better job than I at explaining why the boycott is pointless.

With oil and gasoline prices making the news again, politicians are grandstanding and demanding investigations. If you have a million gallons of gasoline on hand but Americans want to buy 1.2 million gallons, the price will rise until demand drops to one million gallons. Sure, oil companies are making record profits, but the only thing artificial price controls will do is artificially increase the demand. Because supply is not flexible, the increased demand will lead to shortages, gas lines and pain.

Which brings us back to a boycott. Not just of Exxon Mobil, but for all gas stations. Practicing restraint and getting by with less will result in reduced gasoline prices. Ride a bike to work and school the shopping, combine trips, use public transit, save energy in the home -- these are the patriotic actions that will truly work to help preserve our way of life.

Tim Habb article via The Oil Drum. Tags: peak+oil, gasoline, boycott, xom, economy, exxon


Roger said...

There's just one problem with your idea -- it makes too much sense!

Dave Lucas said...

I just got the chain letter and posted a blog entry about it this morning. I do recall someone saying on TV or radio that here in the Capital Region of NY State all the brands get their gas from the same source, so in this case, boycotting would be uneventful.

James said...

Good advice. I have noticed that people don't think riding a bike to work is all that crazy these days.

Armand said...

A boycott won't work, but I'm afraid that restraint will only serve to save you a little money. Even if we all could and did hop on a bike or public transit for marketing, commuting, and other life requirements, global demand is growing so rapidly that prices would be likely to remain high. More effective would be a coherent energy policy that invested in long-term R&D and alternative ecoonomical sources of energy here in the US and elsewhere. We should be urging our representatives to work for such a policy.

thinkbig said...

Economists understand the intracicies of why a boycott won't work. I am not an economist so I can't touch on those. Even has information debunking boycotts. Regardless, the vast majority of gas stations are franchised and independently owned. Boycotting those would hurt small business people. My mother is one of those people (she operates a few gas stations). I'd hate to think of America boycotting an innocent sweet old lady!

SquarePeg said...

Yes riding bikes to work and using mass transit are great options if you have those options. Unfortunately most of us live where there is no transit and the commute to work is much too far to bike. Energy use is expected to grow by over 40% over the next the next 15 years. Armand has it right we need a sensible energy policy that will reduce our dependency on oil based energy.

Adriel said...

Every 1% of Americans that commute by bike for 50% of their travel save 1.6 billion dollars in gasoline spending every year.

Some justifications here

Every person that says it cannot be done is not helping anything, just get on your bike more and let the car gather dust. It is an amazing sensation the first time you look at your car and realize it has been 3 days since you drove it.

a 10 mile bike ride takes a novice an hour, and 40 minutes for an experienced cyclist, (30 minutes if you get really good and do not have a lot of hills to climb).

How far is your commute? Less than 10 miles? Do not judge by minutes, use a mapping service, like

I think you would be surprised.

Oh and as far as the speed of the mighty car? Here in Austin where we have a lot of highways I get a whopping 28mph average speed. In london the average speed in a car is 7 or 8mph. Similar for New York City. Every time you sit at a stoplight you average 0mph, and if school has taught us anything, it is that when you average a 0 and a 100 you get a failing grade. 0's REALLY hurt, the higher the number it averages against, the more it hurts.

If we reduce demand we will affect the price, gasoline hopefully will never get really cheap again and hopefully will get prohibitive to buy, maybe then we will see more bicycles and other forms of transportation on the road, I think the golf cart would make a great EV. It goes about as fast as a bicycle. You just need a few extra batteries to extend the trip.

Adriel said...

Oh and ever since I decided to replace 50% of my car miles by bike miles I have been saving about $100-200/mo

So it saves a LOT of money.