BUSINESS

EMPLOYEE OF THE WEEK

February 19 2007
BUSINESS

EMPLOYEE OF THE WEEK

February 19 2007

FILL ’ER UP FOR PEACE

A station in Omaha is refusing to sell gas from the Middle East

BY SUZANNE TAYLOR • Atasmallself-serve gas station in the west end of Omaha, Neb., a group called the Terror-Free Oil Initiative is fighting a global war—by refusing to sell gasoline that comes from the Middle East. “Our main goal is to send the message to the gas companies, to the government of the U.S.,” says spokesman Joe Kaufman. “And to say to the citizens of America that they can do their small part in the war on terrorism by supporting those companies that don’t purchase crude oil from the Middle East.”

Claiming that money from oil is helping fund terrorism around the world, the initiative purchased the station from Sinclair Oil, and continues to buy its gas from that company, which obtains most of its oil from Canada and the U.S. The long-term goal is to end U.S. dependence on foreign oil altogether. “We would like to see alternative fuels and renewable energy,” says Kaufman. “This type of thing can unify the left and the right.”

But some observers worry that the gas station, which also hands out information on terrorism, will only fuel anti-Muslim sentiment. As well, because oil companies always buy and sell among themselves, it’s nearly impossible to track a given barrel’s origin. “I wouldn’t bet on this one,” says Michael Pearce, a professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, who notes that when it comes to our consumer behaviour, it’s hard to jolt people out of their routines. The Terror-Free station is competing with several nearby stations—just having to drive a little further, Pearce says, may prove too much of an inconvenience.

Still, the initiative is talking about expanding into a national chain. Kaufman says that business has picked up since the station’s opening on Feb. 1. “We had a lot of people that told us that they came from miles to fill up,” he says. “This can bring America together.” M