Does BP gas really come from BP?

Let’s pretend we want to send BP a message by boycotting the local BP gas station. What does that involve?

BP gas station sign

Tanker trucks deliver gasoline to the gas stations. That tanker truck with BP branded gasoline probably did not fill up at a BP supplier, however. BP’s only refinery in California is down near Los Angeles in Carson, CA. The other BP refineries in the United States are Texas City, TX (near Houston); Whiting, IN (by Chicago); Blaine, WA; and Toledo, OH.

Gas stations in San Francisco get their gasoline from the Valero bulk facility in Benicia, Chevron in Richmond, or from Shell or Tesoro in Martinez. In addition to selling to their own “branded” stations (Shell to Shell, for example), these petroleum wholesalers supply supermarket gas stations and the tiny “Hiram’s Discount Gas & Bait Shop” stations. They also sell to their competitors, adding the ‘secret sauce’ additives to the tanker truck that make BP gasoline different from Brand X fuel.

11,000 gas stations across the United States bear the BP brand. The corporation owns just a few hundred of these stations, and they’ve all been for sale since 2007. The vast majority are owned by small businesses and families. This is why environmental groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace haven’t organized BP Boycotts — it hurts the wrong people.

To really send a message to BP, you need to target the gas stations that actually take delivery of BP provided fuel. That means gas stations in Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles and Toledo — and not just BP gas stations, but all of those stations that take delivery from the nearby BP refinery.

The BP Carson Refinery provides about 25% of Southern California’s fuel and 40% of its diesel, and supplies a substantial amount of fuel for Nevada and Arizona as well. Jet aircraft out of LAX fly on BP fuel from the Carson refinery. The only polypropylene manufacturing on the US West Coast is at this refinery, so boycott any BPA-free USA made plastic water bottles, and boycott the 40% of your supermarket products that were delivered via BP diesel in Southern California, as well as the vast quantity of Chinese manufactured consumer goods that are offloaded at the Port of Los Angeles and begin their journey into the American heartland via the Harbor Freeway with BP diesel fuel.

BP / Arco Cherry Point is Washington state’s largest refinery. Its 3.5 million gallons of gas per day fuels 20% of the cars in Washington with oil from the Alaska North Slope oil fields. 85% of flights out of Seattle-Tacoma Airport are fueled by BP jet fuel from Cherry Point. A BP boycott means a boycott on air travel from LAX and SEA.

BP Toledo produces 4 million gallons of gasoline daily, “enough products to fully fuel 160,000 automobiles” they brag. The Whiting Refinery near Chicago is the 5th largest refinery in the United States, producing 8% of the asphalt in the United States. The Texas City refinery produces 8 million gallons of gasoline per day for Texas Gulf Coast transportation and industry.

Can you see how difficult this quickly gets? It means that everybody who believes in this boycott who lives near a BP refinery needs to drastically cut their gasoline and diesel purchases. Other refineries may increase delivery for the increased demand at other stations, but they’ll need to meet that demand by buying petroleum and refined products from … BP.

Ron Lieber observes, “Perhaps the best way for people to express outrage and inflict pain on oil companies is to use less fuel, thereby lowering overall demand. This is much harder than flinging brown paint at a BP sign, as many people have done.

What are you doing to boycott BP and move beyond petroleum?


Photo courtesy Future Atlas.

US Energy Information Administration US Petroleum Refineries

Refinery production information from BP.


  1. fungible commodity – a good term to know.

    If you want to stop the negative impacts of the acquisition of a resource you have to remove the demand for it. Not just one brand of it.

    oil is a fungible commodity – one version of it is just as exchangeable as another, independent of supplier.

  2. =v= Back in 1989, Greenpeace had a campaign featuring a photo of Cap'n Hazelwood, the drunken captain of the Exxon Valdez, with the words, “It wasn't his driving that caused the oil spil. It was yours.” Which is absolutely true. Also true is that oil spills and leaking gas tanks around the U.S. put nearly as much junk into the environment as BP has.

    These are the facts, but unfortunately most of the motoring public looks at the scale of the problem and figures they can't make a difference, so they keep on doing what they've been doing, or make middling changes. The real question is how to make widespread change to the transportation infrastructure.

    That said, BP has had some egregious violations over the past few decades (and even had a hand in the Exxon Valdez spill), and they need to be held accountable and change their practices.

  3. I still support a boycott on BP. While doing so will hurt the station owners, I honestly can’t feel to bad. BP has made money off them, and probably continues to do so through franchising fees and royalty. The fact of the matter is these privately owned stations fly the BP flag every day. They are representing a corporation that has such disregard for safety that some 26 employees have been killed. If they don’t want to be the victims of such a boycott then I suggest taking down the BP sign and replacing it with something else. Anyone who has purchased a BP station AFTER the Deepwater Horizon accident, knowing what sort of company they will be representing, deserves what comes their way. Not trying to be cold, just want to send a message that such greed and disregard won’t be tolerated for any reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.