Boycotting Citgo fails to affect Chavez due to nature of transporting petroleum
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is one silly guy.
He’s chummy with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, he has no plans to leave the presidency at the end of his two terms and he wasn’t exactly ‘diplomatic’ in his speech at the United Nations last month.
It amazes me that Americans still take this guy so seriously. When Chavez called President Bush ‘the devil,’ it sent people into a fit. How dare this foreigner come on U.S. soil and bash our president who only has a 39 percent approval rating? We’re the only ones allowed to do that.
Since Chavez’s speech, calls have gone out for a boycott of Citgo, which gets more than half of its oil from Venezuela. Nothing shows true American patriotism like trying to cripple another country’s economy with a good, old-fashioned boycott. But what boycotters don’t realize is that a refusing to buy Citgo’s oil does not hurt the company, and it definitely doesn’t have an effect on the Venezuelan economy.
Citgo has not seen a decrease in sales since the Chavez speech, and even if they do, it will take several months for it to show, said David McCollum, a spokesperson for Citgo. What many people don’t realize is that even though about 60 percent of Citgo’s oil comes from Venezuela, that oil isn’t necessarily what goes into consumers’ vehicles when they fill up at the pump.
McCollum said that once Citgo’s refineries turn the oil into usable gasoline, it is transferred across the nation to individual retailers in the same pipelines as gasoline from other companies. So chances are, if you fill up at a Chevron or Shell station, you’re still getting gas that was originally refined by Citgo. There’s no way around it. If you put gas in your car, you’re using Venezuelan oil. Until a viable, alternative fuel source is created, or we start driving Flintstone style, we’re going to be dependent on other countries, including Venezuela, for our gas.
The irony of a Citgo boycott is that it hurts American entrepreneurs more than Venezuelans. Individual retail storeowners buy gasoline from Citgo to sell to consumers. They don’t have any under the table dealings with Chavez and they don’t think Bush is the devil, they’re just trying to make an honest living.
‘If you boycott from a gas station, you’re not really having an impact where you’re trying to have an impact,’ McCollum said.
I’m not sure if this is an ego issue among Americans or not, but before declaring a boycott, we need to make sure it’s for the right reasons.
Steven Kovach is a featured columnist whose columns appear Fridays in The Daily Orange. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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