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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Boneheaded BP Sun-Times boycott

Not that anyone has noticed BP calling uncle, but the Chicago Sun-Times has joined august Chicago aldermen in calling for an “all-out” boycott of the company’s service station because of its supposed reckless polluting of Lake Michigan.

In almost 30 years of laboring for the Sun-Times (including a stint on its editorial board) and its sister paper, the Chicago Daily News, I cannot remember it, or any other Chicago paper, calling for such a boycott. I might be wrong, and would appreciate the details.

Credit the Sun-Times for its courage; it’s not often that one for-profit business seeks to publicly instruct another on its moral and legal obligations. Such edicts usually are left to high-and-mighty non-profits. Attempts to drive away business are usually left to competitors, and the last I looked the Sun-Times was not in the oil business. It’s especially courageous in light of the Sun-Times’ precarious financial position; some may call it an act of putting principle over expedience.

At base, though, the paper’s call for a boycott is an act of cowardice.

Just like other critics of federal and state approvals of BP’s plans to spend $3.8 billion to upgrade its northwestern Indiana refinery to turn Canadian oil into gasoline, the Sun-Times provides not a shred of evidence that it will do any environmental harm. The science and the law are on BP’s side; demagoguery and hysterics are on the side of its opponents.

Opponents are forced to revert to the emotional argument that there must be no “backsliding” on pollution, and that the increases of ammonia and suspended solids constitute is bad. And why is it bad? Like children, they say, “Just because.”

The editors at the Sun-Times, if they are rational, have to know that its call for a boycott won’t work. (One reader pointed out to the editors in a letter the reasons why.) They have to know that it’s transparent posturing. There’s only one reason for doing it:

A desperate attempt to be on the side of what they believe is popular opinion. And that’s cowardice. And the soiling of a fine newspaper’s integrity.


Anonymous said...

Chicago politicians are mad because BP has a 'no bribes' policy and they didn't get a cut of the action.

Rich Trzupek said...

The Sun-Times hasn't gone far enough! If we're going to boycott evil polluters, we ought to do it right. Since MWRD discharges far more pollutants than BP, shouldn't they be included? Sure, most of their discharge heads downriver, but don't we have a moral obligation to protect the drinking water of our brothers and sisters in Peoria, St. Louis, etc?

So here's the plan: boycott MWRD. Stop using the loo, starting today, until they stop discharging their disgusting sludge. Just hold it - and we'll bring the SOB's to their knees!