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Worldwide BP Protest Day vilifies BP for Gulf oil spill

Boycotts and protests against BP gas stations could hurt the wrong people. But public anger over the Gulf oil spill can no longer be contained, worsening the oil giant’s prospects for survival.

By Staff writer / June 12, 2010

Gulf oil spill: A protester holds a sign during a protest against BP organized by Moveon.org outside an Arco gas station in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 8.

Chris Pizzello/AP

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Atlanta

Smeared BP signs, bawdy protests outside BP headquarters in Houston, faux Twitter groups that satirize BP chief Tony Hayward and the company’s bumbling as it attempts to control the Deepwater Horizon geyser and the blowback from the Gulf oil spill.

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Fifty-four days into the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the court of public opinion continues to turn against BP and its role in the worst ecological mess in US history: The April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent spill is emptying up to 40,000 barrels a day into the ecologically sensitive Gulf of Mexico.

Some Facebook protest groups want the government to seize BP’s assets. And on Twitter, a popular satirical feed tweets about BP chief Tony Hayward punching a dolphin for fun. Saturday, protesters are gathering in 44 cities worldwide – from Gulf Breeze, Fla., to Berlin, Germany – to vent their anger at the British oil giant.

IN PICTURES: The Gulf oil spill's impact on nature

Boycotting the local neighborhood BP station, isn’t likely to send a message to anyone but the private franchise owner. What’s more, BP pumps its products into what’s in essence a big pool of gasoline in the market, meaning consumers can hardly keep it out of their tanks even if they try. Even the siphoned oil from the well could make its way to gas stations.

But that doesn’t mean the gathering protest storm won’t affect BP.

Even if the only result of the BP oil spill will be tighter regulations for offshore drilling, the company will still struggle to repair the image of its tainted green-and-yellow Helios logo. From its bottom line to its hiring, from lawsuits to scrutiny of development rights, even a company whose brand was worth nearly $4 billion last year could be brought to its knees by the Gulf oil spill backlash, oil economists say. Potential final price tag for BP’s cleanup: $40 billion.

“It’s potentially a company killer,” Edward Chow, a fellow at the Center for Security and International Studies and a former Chevron executive, tells Steve LeVine at Energy Bulletin, an online trade publication.

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