Many motorists decide against BP boycott

Corey Perrine/Staff
Particus Blackshear, of St. Petersburg, Fla., pumps gas at the BP station at Wheeler Road and Interstate Parkway, where a cashier says business has been steady despite the oil spill.

Tanya Kennedy has answered more questions than she did before April 20, but not much else has changed.


"They have some comments. They ask, 'When are we going to fix the oil spill?' " said the BP gas station cashier. "We don't have any less business, though. I think it's some good gas if they're still coming back."

Her store, located at Wheeler Road and Interstate Parkway, has continued to see steady business despite the national and international backlash BP PLC has received for the worst oil spill in U.S. history. BP operated the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded on April 20, which resulted in the death of 11 people and undetermined marine and plant life, and has leaked more than 100 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama has scolded the company for its role in the spill, and an investigation on what went wrong is under way.

The oil spill's environmental impact is not lost on BP customers. Ramsey Tercero, of Augusta, said he thinks of the devastation in the gulf each time he fuels up at BP. He has been a longtime customer because of the quality of the gas, he said.

"In the back of my mind, I think, 'What am I doing to support the death of these poor animals?' " he said. "If the investigation shows that they were arrogant and didn't care, I might boycott them."

Particus Blackshear, of St. Petersburg, Fla., always fills his gas tank with BP fuel, and he does not plan to change. He was visiting Augusta on Tuesday, and fueled his girlfriend's car at the Wheeler Road BP station.

"It's a tragic situation, but I think time heals," he said. "I am not going to boycott. Ten years from now, we're not going to be talking about this."

Plenty of talking is going on via social media Web sites Twitter and Facebook. By Tuesday evening, BoycottBP, a Twitter page, had more than 3,500 followers, and more than 1,000 tweets encouraging users not to give their business to the company's gas stations. More than 8,900 Facebook users have expressed dismay with the company by connecting to the "I Hate BP" page on the social networking site as of Tuesday evening.

The social media backlash and continued coverage of the oil spill could have a local impact, said John Butler, the president of Marco Petroleum, which owns six BP gas stations in the Augusta area. Shortly after the spill, gas sales spiked in the area at the gas stations, but sales have since leveled off, Butler said.

"I've heard of companies wanting to boycott stations, but if someone were to do that here, it would hurt our local economy," he said. "It would make it tough for the people of Augusta."

Butler said he hopes customers see that BP executives are working to correct mistakes made by the company. Local customers have remained loyal in spite of the incident, he said.

"They believe it's the best product in the world," Butler said. "We're just hoping that what happened at that end of the pipeline doesn't hurt us."

Social media

Twitter and Facebook have given consumers an avenue for expressing anger about the BP oil spill that did not exist during the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Consumers have created accounts on both Web sites to post links to stories on the incident and display vitriol about the company's response to the it, BP chief executive Tony Hayward and the impact on the environment. More than 8,900 Facebook users "like" the "I Hate BP" page, which is a way for users to express their interest in a page topic. Facebook users have made hundreds of comments on the page since its creation. Twitter allows its users to follow certain Web pages that interest them. The BoycottBP account on Twitter has more than 3,500 followers, and more than 1,000 tweets on the topic.