October 4, 2007 —
The world’s largest oil company, ExxonMobil has faced increased criticism in recent years. Considering the growing concern with the oil business—in particular, pollution and American dependence on foreign oil, it is not surprising that Exxon has been condemned by environmentalists and other activist groups. Since the infamous Exxon Valdez incident in 1989, the company has faced pressure and a major boycott led by a variety of groups (including the Sierra Club, MoveOn.org, and Greenpeace) is attempting to impact Exxon’s supremacy in the world market.
The question is: How does one successfully boycott ExxonMobil? In the late 1990s and early 2000s, as gas prices began to rise, some activists suggested a Gas Out (no purchase of gas for single day), which received media attention, but accomplished little. Since then, some have expanded the idea to boycotting ExxonMobil, which will force the company to lower prices—and thus lead other companies to follow suit. This activity has its doubters as some activists argue that boycotting ExxonMobil, but buying from Shell or other companies will simply benefit and therefore be able to raise their prices. Thus, ExxonMobil may suffer, but this will do little to impact Americans’ dependence on oil. Still, is ExxonMobil deserving of a boycott or are all oil companies the same?
Oil companies may all share the blame, but Exxon’s size and influence make it an appealing target. As the world’s largest oil company, it can lead the industry toward cleaner energy. Exxon is at the forefront of a campaign that denies global warming and refuses to invest in alternative energy sources. It has provided major political donations in the United States, Russia, and other countries to minimize regulation of the oil industry. According to one group, ExposeExxon, the company spent over $30 million lobbying Congress between 2000 and 2006. The company supports drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge while competitors such as BP and Chevron have backed away. The Exxon boycott is centered on global warming, though activists make sure to point out that the corporation has a poor record on human rights and oil spills as well (the company is still appealing a ruling to pay $5 billion to those impacted by the Valdez spill). On other fronts, ExxonMobil received a rating of 0 in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2008 Corporate Equality Index (a “report card” on GLBT equality) and stated the company had actually “rescinded GLBT-inclusive policies."