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That Middle East oil rumor

You’ve probably seen the e-mail circulating around about what companies buy Middle Eastern oil and thus could be indirectly funding terrorism.
That e-mail came up in conversation today, and then I remembered the Truth or Fiction Web site, which I’d stumbled across while researching the story of Butch and Eddie O’Hare. When I’d first seen that e-mail, I went to the Department of Energy web site to see if I could, as it said, “easily document” who was buying oil from countries that don’t like us very much. I didn’t find anything.

They did. And the e-mail rumor, based on their research, has the numbers wrong but is mostly correct about which companies are buying oil from the Middle East and which ones aren’t, even if it was wrong about the number of barrels (and sometimes they were off by a factor of 10).

The question is, will it do any good? Economic boycotts have worked in the past–take a look at the early days of the Civil Rights movement for an example–but you have to really want it, want it enough to stick to your guns. Based on the rumor, I bought all my gas at Phillips 66 for months, figuring I probably wasn’t doing any harm and might be doing some good. But my last couple of tanks have come from the Mobil station that’s on my way to work. There are a couple of Phillips stations not far out of my way, but they are out of my way.

That’s pretty typical. These days, we’ll talk tough, and we’ll even act tough for a while. But more often than not, ultimately what wins out is what’s cheap or convenient. That Mobil station is close and on the way, so it couldn’t be any more convenient, and it always seems like it’s the first station to lower its prices and the last to raise them. So I’ve been buying there.

I probably should start driving that extra mile to buy somewhere else. There’s a Citgo close by too.

Oh, and by the way… Next time someone forwards you that Pepsi can Pledge of Allegiance rumor, tell them to stop circulating it. It was Dr Pepper, not Pepsi. I can’t say anything with my dollars there. I don’t know that I’ve bought anything from either company in the past year because I almost never drink soda.

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6 thoughts on “That Middle East oil rumor”

  1. Well, that kills that rumor (and Truth or Fiction’s research). Every oil company I’ve ever heard of (and a bunch I never have) was on one or the other of your lists, and all of them import at least a little bit, though some much less than others.

    I note Shell bought a little bit in 2001 but didn’t buy any the first half of this year. Interesting.

    The only thing is this link talks about the Persian Gulf in general. Personally, I have a LOT less problem with buying oil from Jordan than from Saudi Arabia. I’m sure there are fundamentalist, terrorist-sympathizing tycoons in Jordan, but a lot fewer than in Saudi Arabia.

    Thanks for the legwork. I appreciate it.

  2. One other thought brought up by the snopes urban legend decoders–
    The retailers, gas stations you see on the street, aren’t above buying someone else’s gas if it’s available. Suppose everybody in town boycotts the Mobil stations and there’s a big run on Phillips. The Phillips distributor starts to run dry, the Mobil distributor has plenty, and the Phillips stations fill up with Mobil gas.

    Sorry to pop your balloon.

    The real answer is to use less gas, totally.

  3. The companies on the non-importer lists have small refining capacity, or refine under a different name (Citgo’s refining falls under PDV America). These typically rely on purchasing product from the big refiners.

    BP/Phillips is really NOBODY, so of course doesn’t import (or refine) anything. BP Amoco does both. I assume Phillips does also.

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