Well…at least it is not Gary Burghoff — Radar O’Reilly from both the movie and television versions of M*A*S*H — being thought of during all of this. Burghoff was a big part of BP’s first failed attempt at reintroducing itself on the west coast and elsewhere when they tried to kill off the ARCO and AM/PM brands. In what must have been a desperate try to generate some new income since nobody can ever think of him as anything but Radar, poor Gary dressed himself up in and old-style gasoline station uniform and shilled away for BP. Unfortunately for Burghoff, his paychecks from BP did not last very long. As much as most of America still loves him, people on the west coast seemed to rebel hard against losing ARCO — almost as strongly as when ConocoPhillips tried to take away our beloved 76 ball. I don’t even think that the campaign lased a year before BP returned the ARCO name to the stations it had already re-branded. Goodness knows how much money it cost consumers to cover the cost for their marketing blunder.
In another irony, it is odd how most Americans distrust if not downright loathe “Big Oil” but, at least for the older ones, can still wax eloquently about some of the old stations, brands, and how things used to be before the 1973 oil crisis and consolidation (something proved by great websites like GasSigns.org and all of the various other “petroliana” sites and retailers available on the Net). Worse yet is that there is no good alternative. Unlike Wal-Mart where one can choose to get the same products from a more humane retailer, there is no such choice for gasoline. It’s not just that the oil industry is a dirty business and that mistakes will happen. It is the proven fact that each of the big oil companies remaining in the United States of America has an abysmal record in regard for how they use this Earth and the people that live upon it. I’m not talking about the pollution emitted from motor vehicles — I’m talking about how their attempts to squeeze every single penny possible out of their companies leads to willful poisoning, never caring about basic human rights, and generally doing everything they can to continue on their merry way with absolutely no regard for how many people they sicken or end up killing.
It is a difficult choice for the American traveler. One would have to be a freak about it like me and take a close read about the history of our current oil refiners, learn the many brands and associates under each of their corporate umbrellas, and balance that all out against the information from research institutes as to who actually makes the best fuel. The latter is important to me as I like to take long trips by automobile and I have had too many instances in my life where bad gasoline has at least affected my mileage if not actually caused the need for expensive repairs.
When looking at each company’s record of corporate citizenship…well, I think it comes down to what each person cares about most and what types of transgressions one considers to be worse than others. I have my own choices and pecking orders depending on where I am at in the USA as to what gas is actually good for my car and who is the least evil. With prices so similar between major brands, I really do look for certain stations instead of just pulling in wherever.
As for those “off brands,” don’t think for a minute that most of them help one escape from supporting “Big Oil.” With a very few exceptions, their fuel comes from the same sources as the big brands. The difference is that the blends are usually not as good and, if used long enough, will indeed cause an engine to not have as long of a life as it would if a better brand was put into the tank. This is regardless of the octane unless one lives in one of those states that sells it at 85 in which case I strongly suggest using 87…86 at the least…85 octane gas is bad news if you care about your car or truck.
So…yes, I stick with certain major brands and I try to use certain ones over others even though no one company is really all that better than the other when it comes to being a good corporate citizen. Yet, I am not going to give my own personal list, as I really hate to endorse any of them.
However, there are certain ones that I never use and I will be glad to list one of them here. Even before any of us ever dreamed that they could cause an oil spill that could potentially ruin the entire Gulf of Mexico, I never used BP or any of its other brands which include ARCO, AM/PM, and still a very few Amoco and Standard stations (NOTE: By “Standard” I mean the ones with the oval and torch logo, not the ones that use the Chevron logo…all still a leftover from the breakup of the original Standard Oil Trust and a very long and sometimes confusing story that everybody will have to look up for themselves if they give a shit).
The reason for this is two-fold. For one, most BP et al stations charge customers extra if they pay for anything, gas or otherwise, with a debit card. In this world where traveling with cash is not usually a good idea, I find that despicable. However, the main reason to not use BP (etc.) gas is that it is just plain shitty. None of BP’s brands have ever made the cut on the Top Tier Gasoline tests and come nowhere close to getting an endorsement from the Terror-Free Oil Initiative (a controversial organization so investigate them thoroughly for yourself before deciding whether or not you want to consider their advice when choosing what gasoline to purchase). Strictly on anecdotal evidence, it always seems to be an ARCO station (remember, they’re owned by BP) that is being exposed in the local media for watering down their gas or fiddling around with the pumps in order to make one think more gas was purchased than actually received. In addition, from my personal observations, the last five vehicles I have owned have all run like shit on ARCO, BP, and Amoco as opposed to most of the other major brands available in the western portion of the USA. Their fuel just has no power and makes a car run sluggish. In my view, in my area of the USA, the only brand that’s worse is Valero and its associated brands of Beacon, Diamond Shamrock, Total, and Ultramar (and some but not all Thrifty stations).
So…for me, a boycott of BP for what will probably end up being their criminal negligence in using faulty equipment and not being properly prepared for such a disaster is not big deal to me since I finally said “enough is enough” to their shitty ARCO gas after yet another round of my car running like total crap with a tank full of their swill. As I recall, that was over 11 years ago and I have only stopped at a BP station once since that time and that was only because I was in the middle of bumfuck Kentucky and had no choice. Even then, I only bought $5 worth so I could get to where I could put in some good gas as well as a bottle of STP fuel treatment to clean up any junk left behind by BP’s shit-tier gasoline.
Still, I again say that it is never a perfect choice when choosing a brand of gasoline. However, I do recommend that people should make a top choice plus a few others underneath for a pecking order when that brand is not available when traveling as none of them are in every state and province any longer even under different names. Trying to stick to the same brand of gas most of the time will make your car very happy. Better yet, in most cases unless one owns a performance-based vehicle, there is no benefit in paying for anything above 87 octane (86 if it is available). In fact, when it comes time for a smog inspection if needed, a lower octane is actually more likely to help a borderline vehicle pass (at least in California and Colorado) than something more expensive (check with your mechanic first on that though before taking an iffy vehicle to a smog inspection…this is something that can vary from vehicle to vehicle not to mention state to state).
Just remember, a good-running car or truck runs more efficiently and thus saves fuel and emits less pollution. Think of it just like your body. You can eat nothing but McDonald’s all the time, feel like crap, take some of the nastiest shits that have ever flopped out of your ass, and have it start clogging up and eating out your innards. Gasoline is the same thing as it is your vehicle’s food. Even if you don’t care about pollution or, dare I say it, global warming, at least think of your pocketbook. Paying a little more for good gasoline in the present goes a long way toward preventing a huge repair bill in the future. In other words, for those old enough to remember the old Fram commercial which is probably one of the best examples of actual truth in advertising in American history…you can pay me now…or pay me later.
I hope that gives everyone a little something to think about especially since most people make their choices in fuel with hardly any thought at all. If a decision cannot be made on good corporate citizenship, at least make it on what is best for the car. Remember, being an informed consumer is one of the best ways in this whole modern world in which you can stick it to the man. >:-)