Sunday, September 04, 2005

The "Sign Seen 'Round the World." Will BP Take A Hit?

Amidst the horrific destruction in the American South are oil refineries that are no longer working.

Government officials say 11 major refineries, responsible for up to 15% of the nation's gasoline output, are out of commission. No one knows how long.

Prices here in New Hampshire hit $3/gallon, and panic buying of gas in Atlanta and elsewhere caused gas lines, but one Atlanta station in particular took the opportunity to spike prices even higher.

A British Petrolium station in Atlanta posted prices that topped $6.07 per gallon for premium unleaded.

I'd hate to be the owner of that station once the corporate office of BP gets wind of it (since price gouging is likely not company policy.) But nevertheless, the picture here of the sign - photographed originally from network news helicopters - was shown on every network Wednesday afternoon.

CBS Evening News reporter Jim Axelrod reported (and blogged about) an interview with the owner, Mike Vasaya, in which he said he was simply trying to keep customers away - always a good approach for a business - since he was out of gas.

I noticed almost immediately a lot of those cinema-verite style BP ads touting its environmental consciousness have started running again. Was it in reaction to the idea that price gouging may be associated with the company? Perhaps.

In a related story, BP announced in a news release on its Website that they were contributing $1 million to hurricane relief efforts.

We'll see if that's enough to erase the image of the "sign seen 'round the world" that was seen by millions.

UPDATE: 9/5/05: The above picture remains the second most emailed photographs on the Internet, according to Yahoo!

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