No cap on BP

Protesters should push for long-term policy changes — not boycotts.

Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, musicians, politicians and anonymous banners  have advocated a boycott of BP gas stations. A “Boycott BP” Facebook group has more than 600,000 members. Minnesota has seen protests in Duluth and boycotts in Bloomington.
Yet despite the admirable desire to make BP pay for its negligence in the greatest environmental disaster in the nation’s history, targeting local gas stations is a useless and counterproductive way of holding BP accountable for its actions.
Instead of targeting small businesses that had nothing to do with BP’s drilling policy, citizen efforts would be better channeled into changing federal law so that corporations are required to bear the full costs of lost wages caused by their negligence. Currently BP is legally liable for only $75 million in commercial damages.
Boycotts and protests in front of local gas stations might make protesters feel good about themselves, but BP does not own a single gas station in Minnesota. A boycott only harms local franchise owners, bankrupting them long before BP is even affected.
President Barack Obama has made it clear that BP cannot hide behind the letter of the law, but he should not need to personally police corporate responsibility. Instead of gas station protests and boycotts, a sustained campaign to change the law to require that corporations are held fully accountable for their actions is the best way to show BP and other corporations there are consequences when they cut corners in shortsighted pursuit of profit at the expense of their larger social responsibilities.
Instead of a $75 million cap on economic damages, protesters should fight for no cap on damages. Anyone who lost wages because of BP’s negligence should be able to recoup all of his or her losses.