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The Green Life: Pick Your Poison

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July 21, 2007

Pick Your Poison

I like to pat myself on the back because I don't own a car, but if my boyfriend offers to pick me up after I've had a long day at work, I'm not about to say no. Despite what we know about their polluting ways, cars are still a part of life for many environmentalists. And unless you've converted yours to run on French fries or plug-in power, you've still got to buy gas. But where?

Pulling up to the gas pump is never something you can feel 100 percent good about, and the huge size and complex organization of oil companies makes their activities hard to track. But there are differences. When Sierra looked at oil companies, we broke our research down into four categories: Pyp_airfresh
Get a free air freshener listing our top, middle, and "bottom of the barrel" choices

  • environmental and human-rights abuses, e.g., oil spills and pipelines driven through indigenous communities
  • toxic releases from refineries, or how much pollution they create per barrel of oil processed
  • stance on global warming; and
  • green initiatives

Based on this, we gave our worst ("bottom of the barrel") ratings to ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips and middling scores to Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Valero Energy Corporation, and Citgo.

Philadelphia-based Sunoco came off looking pretty good, but the company is relatively small and doesn't do its own oil drilling and exploration, so there are fewer opportunities for it to do ill. Of the big companies, BP ended up as our "best" (or, really, "least worst") choice because of its leadership on reducing CO2 emissions, supporting the Kyoto Protocol, backing off on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and investing in alternative energy. Of course, BP has plenty of black marks on its record too. All the more reason to reduce the amount of gas you have to buy, by walking, biking, taking transit, carpooling, or driving a more fuel-efficient vehicle.

Check out the full survey or find out how you can get a free air freshener listing the summary results.


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