Hey Mr. Green,
Which gas stations in the United States are the best to use concerning the environment? I don't want to be buying from gas stations who buy from oil companies that pay lobbyists to deny climate change.
—Katrina in San Antonio
Rating the oil companies is a tricky—and potentially embarrassing—endeavor. In 2008 in my otherwise reliable book I ranked BP as one of the best companies, only to watch it plunge to the bottom of the barrel with its unprecedented toxic fiasco in the Gulf of Mexico. The assessment effort is immensely complicated by the variety of activities and locations involving these global industries, not to mention the difficulty of rating the different headache they create (and sometimes help remedy. What’s worse, Royal Dutch Shell’s pollution of air and water in Brazil, or Exxon’s opposition to policies to curb global warming? Should Valero be downgraded because it pumped a lot of money in to a referendum to axe California’s tough restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions? Should ConocoPhillips move up a notch because it donates money to save migratory birds, or be downgraded because of a rather nonchalant approach to cutting its emissions?
The only bedrock certainty I have is that these outfits should not continue to wallow in $3.6 billion-a-year tax breaks handed them by their pals in Congress, especially after they raked in $38 billion in the first quarter of this year alone (and do tell your senators and representatives that you prefer to see such corporate welfare rerouted to environmental protection, clean energy, or other humane purposes).
With the above-mentioned contingencies in mind, following are Sierra’s most recent ratings, from the best to the worst, or top to bottom of the barrel:
Top of the Barrel
Middle of the Barrel
Royal Dutch Shell
Valero Energy Corporation
Bottom of the Barrel
For a detailed discussion of how these assessments were made, see http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/pickyourpoison/
To request a copy of “Can't Get the Oil Out of My Wings,” a bird's personal account of her encounter with an oil slick, contact me by clicking on "Submit your question" above. Warning: This poem features adult content and language.