Where should I buy gas for my car?
March 14, 2005 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I am trying to be more conscious of the political ramifications of my spending habits (ie, Target instead of Walmart because Walmart == Republican, and Target seems civic-minded), and now it occurs to me that I should do the same for gas. Most places are priced about the same (within 2-3 cents) and since I drive a Toyota Echo, gas mileage isn't really a problem (I average around 37 mpg), so price isn't (much) of a concern. So, based on past failures and forward-looking research, factoring in politics for a left-leaning gay man who cares about the environment and progressive social causes, where should I spend my gas money so that it won't be used for evil?

Within my regular, around-town driving routes, there are at least one of the following: Shell, Exxon, Conoco, Murphy (via Sam's Club).

Since I drive from Little Rock to Milwaukee and back moderately often, there's also BP, Mobil, Phillips 66, etc. on the way.

And yes, I do understand that the fact that I'm using gas is, in itself, environmentally damaging. My next car will be Better® in this regard, but unless you want to buy me my next car—right now—please don't bother bringing it up.
posted by chota to Shopping (23 answers total)
According to BuyBlue.org, Hess might be a good choice for you. That's where I'll be buying my gas whenever possible.
posted by mds35 at 11:15 AM on March 14, 2005

Though I don't know where the gas comes from, Costco has a high buyblue rating too.

Don't expect to save money with Costco gas.
posted by wezelboy at 11:51 AM on March 14, 2005

I have this discussion with myself fairly often, though my gasoline choices are pretty limited. You might enjoy this chart whch says Sunoco is the way to go and Exxon is to be avoided at all costs. I've always figured that buying gasoline is more or less like buying cigarettes and I really try to minimize driving when at all possible. That said, it's not always possible so I go for cheap gasoline and offset it by giving money to EFF or the Heifer Project with my perceived savings.
posted by jessamyn at 12:02 PM on March 14, 2005

Until its merger with Exxon, Mobil had provided benefits to same sex partners of employees and prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. After the merger, ExxonMobil revoked these policies, taking what amounts to a large step backward. I think that it may be the only one of the top ten Fortune 500 companies choosing NOT to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation.

No Exxon for me.
posted by Morrigan at 12:20 PM on March 14, 2005

I may not be able to contribute but I wanted to comment that you made a good post.
posted by Dean Keaton at 12:24 PM on March 14, 2005

You also might want to notice that Target == Republican.
posted by fleacircus at 12:24 PM on March 14, 2005

You can't win. Google suggests there are boycotts against each of the local companies you name. Shell is doing something untoward in Nigeria, and Exxon is accused of being a big Bush supporting Kyoto-bashing company (not to mention the domestic partner stuff Morrigan mentions). Conoco seems too small to have done much that's wrong, but people are boycotting it, anyway. As for the gas station associated with Sam's, I am assuming that if you object to Wal-Mart you object to its sister corporation just as strongly. Also, given Halliburton's market share, I would be surprised if their products or services did not help extract at least some of the petroleum used by each of the companies you name.

You could switch to riding a bike. Just don't ride one that supports Republicans.
posted by profwhat at 12:31 PM on March 14, 2005

You may want to avoid Shell. They have a habit of propping up local dictatorships to get to a country's natural resources, despite their seemingly squeaky-clean pro-environmentalist marketing.

Actually, almost all of the oil companies suck. Ride a bicycle. I cut my gas tank fillup from once every week and a half to once a month by riding my bike to and from work.
posted by AlexReynolds at 12:39 PM on March 14, 2005

NY Times had an excellent article a year or two ago about the Greening of BP. The company decided they needed to be more forward-looking and are now investing a lot in Hydrogen and other alternatives. Their take on it is that many current uses of petroleum will go the way of the dodo sometime this century, and they decided to lead that charge. Sorry I don't have a link, but it was very encouraging talk from an oil company.

I agree with AlexReynolds though-- biking or walking, if it's an option, is the best statement you can make. Much better for you too.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:51 PM on March 14, 2005

Costco in Arizona, at least, is typically priced five cents less than the lowest non-Costco gas stations. You pay ~$50 for a yearly membership, but it "pays for itself" as the advertisers like to say. You can also split the membership with a friend as long as you make some mewling noises about totally living at the same address.

But yeah, what wezelboy said about not knowing the source.
posted by user92371 at 12:58 PM on March 14, 2005

Don't expect to save money with Costco gas.
posted by wezelboy at 11:51 AM PST on March 14 [!]

How so? In the DC area, Costco gas is $0.15 cheaper by the gallon.
posted by grateful at 12:59 PM on March 14, 2005

While there may not be good oil companies, one can plausibly argue that some oil companies are worse than others. More specifically, one can argue that Exxon is worse than all the others.

For example, Exxon is the only major oil company that is still supporting Arctic Power, the industry group lobbying to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. (self-link: you can send a note to Exxon asking them to drop out by clicking here.) The other big companies are all actually staying on the sidelines on the refuge right now.

Exxon is by far the most intransigent of oil companies in terms of global warming. And as Morrigan pointed out, Exxon also has a terrible record on gay rights.

So try to avoid driving, but if you have drive, don't drive Exxon.
posted by alms at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2005

A few tangentially related thoughts:

While much of the money you spend on gas ends up in the corporate coffers, some goes to the folks who own/franchise your local stations. It might take a bit of digging, but you may be able to tap into local resources (newspaper? BBB?) that can tell you who is contributing to the community, who treats their workers particularly well, who's been in the area a long time, etc.

I'd be more comfortable spending my money with someone who funnels a bit of it back into the neighborhood, regardless of the corporate parent (within reason).

And speaking of Hess - as someone who grew up in Jersey, Hess was always special to us as we'd get a model tanker truck every year for Christmas. And Leon Hess (who started the company with one delivery truck during the depression, kept Patton's army refueled after D-Day, and owned the NY Jets) was by all accounts a relatively decent human being.
posted by jalexei at 1:08 PM on March 14, 2005

In Collapse, Jared Diamond cites Chevron as being environmentally conscious (at least in its Papua New Guinea drilling operations). The linked review mentions it a bit but I couldn't find an actual relevant excerpt.
posted by nev at 1:16 PM on March 14, 2005

Response by poster: Interesting comments all! Thanks for the input, specifically:

odinsdream: I didn't realize that (about same tanker fueling all stations around town), but now that you mention it, it makes sense; I can't see the local "EZ-Mart" (no corporate affiliation) providing their own refining infrastructure.

Dean Keaton: Thanks for the comment; this is actually my first front page post! I was half-afraid that people were going to be mean to me or I was going to get a tongue lashing for not looking in the archives (I did, I swear, I even looked at the tag list!)

Unfortunately, Little Rock is the most pedestrian- and nonstandard-motorized-transport- -unfriendly city I've ever been. Also, we're the meanest city against the homeless. On the other hand, we're home to the international headquarters of Heifer International, jessamyn.

Look for my next post in 2 years when I want to buy my next car/segway/moped/hampster wheel. :)
posted by chota at 2:01 PM on March 14, 2005

Don't drive Exxon.

After the Exxon Valdez oil spill I swore off Exxon -- have only bought their stuff maybe five times since, when there was no other choice, running on empty.

Here in the Bay Area, several years ago, most of the Exxon stations morphed into Valero, almost overnight; but I'm not fooled.
posted by Rash at 2:24 PM on March 14, 2005

in addition to buyblue.org, see also choose the blue
posted by pinto at 2:44 PM on March 14, 2005

Rash: I don't think the Exxon-->Valero switch is as underhanded as you think (that is, Valero is not an Exxon subsidiary, rebranded in the interest of attaining better PR). In 2000, "Valero entered the West Coast market when it acquired ExxonMobil Corporation’s Benicia, Calif., refinery ... its 270-store retail distribution chain and 80 company-operated retail sites ... This acquisition also marked the company’s entry into the retail business when it debuted the Valero retail brand. " The FTC approved this divestiture.
posted by fourstar at 4:01 PM on March 14, 2005

Regarding Shell: as far as petroleum companies go, there aren't any companies that lean to the left as much as Shell does as far as political donations go. I know that's not a great reason to support them... but if you are looking for the least evil corporation to support and you are left-leaning, Shell may not be a bad choice.
posted by ensign_ricky at 5:43 PM on March 14, 2005

It's sadly true, they all suck. Conoco (when it was part of DuPont; it is now owned by Phillips) apparently acquired permission to drill on federal land in Utah during the Clinton administration. And when it merged with Phillips, according to the Human Rights Campaign, they took gays and lesbians out of their company discrimination policy. Not that the things really mean all that much, but one would think the bad PR would be reason enough to keep them in.

Thanks for that chart Jessamyn, it doesn't hurt that Arco/BP also has the cheapest gas around here.
posted by calistasm at 6:10 PM on March 14, 2005

I'd like to throw a loud, shrill vote against Shell Oil. There is nary an oil company one can feel good about, but Shell is really a bad place to spend your money. Here's a nice little summary of Shell and Mobil's more horrible human rights' abuses.

Royal Dutch Shell has been active in Nigerian politics for some time, and were complicit in the sham trial and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995..
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:39 PM on March 14, 2005

BP now do annual environmental and sustainability reports. They have put a bit of effort into rebranding themselves as being an energy company rather than an oil company and are one of the larger investors in renewable energy technologies amongst the oil companies. They are particularly active in the area of photovoltaic (solar) cells and BP Solar is a major cell manufacturer. Amoco is BP owned.
Shell also do provide environmental reports and are strong in wind energy investment.
posted by biffa at 1:42 AM on March 15, 2005


You can find it lots of places, have it delivered, and if you really want to you can brew your own.
course you would have to buy a new vehicle...
posted by [this is good] at 9:11 PM on March 15, 2005

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