Where to gas up in the post-BP era
Let me recommend a couple of things. First off, on the West Coast there is Conserv Fuel which, as far as I can tell, is as good as you're going to get. They are independent, offer reasonably priced gasoline compared with the competition, AND also offer a range of alternative fuels like biodiesel, ethanol, etc. I understand that they have changed management since I used them, but still maintain some of the same alternative energy options and remain a better option for fueling. When my family visits Los Angeles, these are the stations we use 90% of the time...whether we hae a regular car or the one time we rented a biodiesel. Here are the locations I find for Conserv Fuel: (there used to be more I think)
11699 West San Vicente Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90049-5105
254 Santa Rosa Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405-2434
I recommend going out of your way to use these stations if you can. Perhaps they are the ones I can most recommend for those who live nearby.
For diesel engines there is the option of biodiesel, which is cleaner in all ways than petrodiesel so you are reducing (but not eliminating) your pollution and carbon footprint. Biodiesel stations are usually independently owned and the biodiesel part of the fuel is usually made locally, not imported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Nigeria or Venezuela. Newer diesel engines can use up to 100% biodiesel (B99 or B100) while old diesel engines can use up to 20% biodiesel (B20) without problems. Old engines have gaskets that will wear faster with higher than B20, but those gaskets can be replaced with ones that can stand up to 100% biodiesel. Old gaskets aside, biodiesel is actually better for engines overall. Engines get less gunked up from biodiesel and gunk from petrodiesel can actually be cleaned out to some degree when you switch to biodiesel. So, again old gaskets aside, engine wear and tear is reduced using biodiesel. Most biodiesel is made locally, creating local jobs. Biodiesel stations can be found all over the country. If you have a diesel engine, you can find your closest stations by clicking on the map at this site.
I also recommend Citgo, probably the only gas station where NONE of the oil comes from Middle East dictatorships. They are linked to the Venezuelan government, which is not the best, but honestly I prefer that to the Saudi, Kuwaiti, or Iranian governments. Venezuela gets criticized by the American media extensively but from what I have been able to figure out most of it is exaggeration. That is not to say Venezuela is all wonderful and perfect. I don't trust Hugo Chavez and think he is a potential dictator. But to date he has generally stayed more within the rule of law than most Third World nations and has generally done things in a more democratic manner than most Third World nations. In addition, Citgo provides free heating fuel for some poor communities in the US. So overall, when comparing them to the competition, I think Citgo comes out better than average. They tend to be more reasonably priced (I suspect the fact that it would cost less to transport fuel from Venezuela than from the Middle East helps keep the price down) and they are not linked with any major environmental disasters like Chevron, Exxon/Mobil and BP are. In a list of bad choices, Citgo remains better than most. Also it should be noted that Venezuela only owns a 50% share in Citgo, the rest is American owned. Citgo is mainly on the Eastern half of the country. Go here to find a Citgo station near you.
Beyond that, it is hard for me to recommend fueling stations. I hope the above options cover the needs of at least some of my readers. But I know not all. So we need to go below those top few choices to find options for all my readers.
So next let me recommend Sunoco. I have as yet heard little outright bad about Sunoco (go here for the negatives on Sunoco...they aren't as bad as most other gasoline companies). Given that I know specifically bad things about Chevron (ties to repressive regimes, responsible for many deaths in Nigeria and for ecological disasters around the world), Exxon/Mobil (more ecological disasters from Valdez on), Shell (ties to awful governments world wide), and now BP/Arco, the relative quiet regarding bad things about Sunoco sounds promising. Looking at several sites (e.g. see the one I mention below) that give lists of better and worse companies, Sunoco comes off pretty well comparatively. I have been told by a reader that Sunoco is linked to BP in some way, but I have yet to find such a link. It is possible there is an indirect link, but not a direct one. You can find a Sunoco station by clicking here. For those who don't live near one of those two Conserv Fuel stations, don't have a diesel engine that takes biodiesel, and don't live in a part of the country that has Citgo, Sunoco would be your best option.
Hess is another one I have heard little outright bad about...but I also don't know all that much about it at all. From what I read at this site, Hess sounds worse to me than Sunoco or Citgo, but still better than Chevron/Texaco, Exxon/Mobil, BP/Arco and Shell.
Above all, Chevron/Texaco, Exxon/Mobil, Shell (full name Royal Dutch Shell), and BP/Arco should be avoided if at all possible. Here are some of the reasons for boycotting these companies:
Exxon boasts a commitment to preserving biodiversity but simultaneously fights policies designed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions.
Critics accuse the company of funding "junk science" to refute evidence of climate change due to rising carbon dioxide levels from fossil fuels.
Exxon's record of toxic spills, human rights abuses, and overall disregard for corporate responsibility principles have earned it a spot at the top of Co-op America's list of the world's most egregious corporations.
Remember the Exxon Valdez fiasco...one of the worst environmental disasters until BP's.
Exxon/Mobil is not prepared to handle oil spills and show inadequate policy plans according to members in congress
Exxon/Mobil is one of the 10 worst polluters in America.
Shell encouraged the use of lethal force against environmental activists in Nigeria during the mid-1990s, and nine Ogoni leaders fighting to oust Shell from Ogoniland were detained by the Nigerian government and hanged.
Shell continues to engage in the environmentally destructive practice of gas flaring, which has exposed Nigerians to dangerous levels of air toxins, though the company has agreed to phase out the practic over the next couple of years.
Shell is not prepared to handle oil spills and show inadequate policy plans according to members in congress.
Chevron is directly and indirectly responsible for human rights violations in the Niger Delta.
Chevron has engaged in toxic dumping in several US states and in the Amazon rainforest. From 1972 to 1990 in Ecuador alone, a lawsuit on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorians alleges that Texaco Corp. was responsible for dumping 18.5 billion gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers and open pits in the Amazon jungle, causing skin problems, miscarriages, and other ailments in local communities. (for more on this issue and action alerts, go here: http://chevrontoxico.com/take-action/send-chevron-a-message.html )
Chevron is not prepared to handle oil spills and show inadequate policy plans according to members in congress
So the facts point to avoiding Chevron/Texaco, Exxon/Mobil, Shell and BP/Arco and instead shopping at Citgo, Sunoco, Hess, Conserv Fuel or a biodiesel station. There are other companies like Marathon, Phillips and Valero that I haven't found enough info on to judge, but probably rank alongside Sunoco and Hess.
That is my take. Here is a website that compares gasoline stations. They don't include my Conserv Fuel and biodiesel options. They put Citgo lower than I do, but otherwise their ranking matches mine. Between my suggestions and theirs, you can now make some personal choices on where you want your gas money to go.