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I take my role as a consumer very seriously. I like (ideally...in reality doesn't always work) to KNOW where my dollars are going, KNOW what my choices are, and then balance convenience, cost and my liberal values when I make a deliberate choice what company I patronize. I consider this to be as important as voting when it comes to my impact on the future.

Sometimes I take shortcuts. My family joined the Park Slope Food Co-op, the largest food Co-op in America, and we kind of assume they make many of the choices for us, so we assume their products are at the high end of both quality and positive social impact. And generally they are. I encourage such short cuts because bottom line is you are supporting a company that incorporates your values into their values and stocks accordingly. And, at least in the case of the Park Slope Food Co-op, they do it at cheaper prices than mainstream stores and they are more successful as a business than mainstream stores. You can try to find a food co-op near you here.

But that wasn't my point here. My point is when you can't find a short cut but still want to balance cost, convenience and your liberal values. Let's take gasoline, possibly the hardest place you can find this balance.

My wife and I live in NYC so we don't need and so don't own a car. I love that. I am not a huge fan of NYC, but that is a fabulous aspect of the city. I may complain about the subway, but it is basically a fabulous system.

So gas stations don't usually figure into our day to day choices when it comes to choosing where we spend our dollars. Of course it takes gasoline to get lots of our daily requirements to our door, but we have no real say over that. The only time we have any say over where our gasoline comes from is when we visit California and rent a car.

We have gone out of our way to be environmentally conscious when we rent cars. We have rented an all-electric RAV4 (LOVED it), a biodiesel VW (loved it), hybrids (not as good as they once were...you used to really get 50 mpg, now they aren't nearly as fuel efficient as they were), and most recently a FlexFuel car. Currently all electric and hybrids are too expensive compared with standard rentals for us to afford in our current economic climate so we tend to rent regular cars and try for best fuel efficiency, though we also like FlexFuel because it gives us the opportunity to use E85 fuel. Although it is not clear it is a better option than regular gas (due to lower fuel efficiency despite lower cost) we still like the option.

All of this begs one question (except in the case of an all electric): where to fuel up?

Gas companies (like tobacco companies) are pretty much all horrible companies when it comes to liberal values. This can perhaps best be seen by looking at Green America's Responsible Shopper website's coverage of Gas/Oil companies. Now they don't cover all companies (Citgo, ConservFuel, Valero...) but they cover the biggest, and they are ALL bad. Red on their site means bad and ALL gas companies they cover are red. The best (relatively speaking) are Sunoco, Citgo and Hess. The most disgusting bottom feeders are Shell, Exxon/Mobil, BP and Chevron/Texico.

When we plan our trips to California we like to spend some real time thinking about what we are going to do and where we are going to eat. This time around we are thinking of traveling up to the Bay Area from Los Angeles because we have a friend newly settled up there and my step-daughter might want to check out Stanford (last year she checked out CalTech and loved it...if they offered her a good deal I bet she'd go to  CalTech in a heartbeat). I spend some time looking for great restaurants and great things to do. Some of our finds I have listed here. Though I admit some of our old favorites have started to fail us (e.g. the Cuban Restaurant called Versailles used to be reliably magnificent, but sucked the last time we were there).

So when it comes to fueling up, I like to KNOW what companies are available that best (or as best as possible) balance cost, convenience, and our liberal values.

If we stick to the Los Angeles/Santa Barbara area we have discovered ConservFuel. For regular gasoline they tend to be near the cheaper end. So they are good cost-wise. They are not always convenient since we aren't always near either their Brentwood (Los Angeles) or Santa Barbara locations, but we are willing to go out of our way a tad to fuel up there. Also they are independent of all the big oil companies and usually offer alternative fuels (e.g. biodiesel, E85...) so they fit our liberal values. So ConservFuel is our station of choice in Los Angeles and in Santa Barbara. They are without a doubt the best balance of cost (generally cheaper than anywhere else), convenience (well sort of), and liberal values (they rock!).

But if we are planning a trip further afield, what do we do.

Well, looking at responsible shopper, Sunoco, Citgo and Hess may be our best options. However, from what I can find there are no Sunoco, Citgo or Hess stations in California. Which kind of sucks. If there are any, I can't find them.

I really don't want to depend on the worst companies in the world (Shell, Exxon/Mobil, BP and Chevron/Texico) when we travel in California. So what are we to do?

Adding on that we prefer to have an option for E85, partly because we prefer companies that favor alternative fuels, I find two options, though they cluster at either end of a trip between Southern California (San Diego-Santa Barbara) and the Bay Area (including San Jose up to Berkeley). They are Conserv Fuel and Propel Fuel.

Conserv Fuel I already mentioned and will always be top of our list when appropriate. Propel Fuel seems to be piggybacking on either Chevron (who I won't patronize) or 76 Stations (who is not rated on Responsible Shopper). So for now I add the Propel Fuel stations associated with 76 stations to my list. But it still leaves gaps. Here are the stations I find running from San Diego to Berkeley that fit our current criteria:

COSERV FUEL: (Best choices)

Conserv Fuel Los Angeles:
11699 San Vicente Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Phone: 310-571-0039

Conserv Fuel Santa Barbara:
150 S La Cumbre Rd
La Cumbre Ln
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Phone: (805) 964-0938

PROPEL FUEL: (Unless otherwise noted, seem to be 76 Station affiliated...Chevron affiliated stations left out)

Chula Vista, H Street
1495 East H St
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Wilmington, Pacific Coast Hwy
1401 W Pacific Coast Hwy
Wilmington, CA 90744

Fullerton, E Chapman Ave (INDEPENDENT station???)
1124 E Chapman Ave
Fullerton, CA 92831

Norwalk, Firestone Blvd
12042 Firestone Blvd
Norwalk, CA 90650

San Jose, 1st Street
1002 N. 1st Street
San Jose, CA 95112

Redwood City, Whipple Ave (VALERO affiliated)
503 Whipple Ave
Redwood City, CA 94063

Berkeley, University Ave
849 University Ave
Berkeley, CA 94710

So I am hoping we can fuel up almost exclusively at these kinds of stations. But maybe folks out there can make recommendations? Am I missing some options? Are there some Sunoco, Hess or Citgo stations as back ups? Are there E85 stations or independent gas stations I am missing?

Even more than our voting choices, we can express our opinions through the companies we patronize. How can we best do this when buying gasoline in California (a particularly difficult version of this question!).

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

    by mole333 on Mon May 28, 2012 at 11:19:58 AM PDT

  •  It really is hard to purchase petrol responsibly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, ybruti, ladybug53

    But we can consume responsibly by making the effort to carpool, bicycle and walk wherever possible... even in the 'burbs.

    A habit of mine is to purchase the same dollar amount of fuel each week, no matter what the price per gallon.

    If the needle is nearing "E" by the time the weekend rolls around, then I'm motivated to consolidate trips or just stay home.

    I also like to think that I'm denying the OilCo's the Republican campaign fund "donation" they impose on us by raising the prices every election-year.

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Mon May 28, 2012 at 01:13:09 PM PDT

    •  I love travel, but... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53

      I have always loved traveling but never really liked driving. So I discovered biking, buses, trains...And that was when I lived in California. Now that I am in NYC it is easier, but ever in California I did okay...with some help with friends with cars.

      Cutting back on gas use is primary and really, really critical. But once you have to buy, I personally feel I have a responsibility at that choice to find the best of many bad choices. Hence this diary which basically is agonizing over 2 weeks of a whole year of no car use. But to us it matters.

      But if it is the reverse...daily car use, then simply reducing use is perhaps the critical factor.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Mon May 28, 2012 at 02:51:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If you think 76 and Valero are ok, there are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, ladybug53

    plenty of them. It will difficult to drive from Santa Barbara to San Jose without refueling but it's probably doable.

    •  Not sure... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jonathan Hoag, ladybug53

      At this point I know what I want to avoid and I know some of the best, which are rare. But in between I don't know. 76 and Valero are kind of unknowns. They are not part of all the horrible companies, but I don't know much else about them. But if they are our only options over the demonstrably horrible Shell, Exxon/Mobil, BP and Chevron/Texico, then I will happily go with 76 and Valero.

      But was hoping for folks to suggest even better, if possible.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Mon May 28, 2012 at 02:55:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Valero isn't totally horrid, but not that great. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333, ladybug53
    ThePolitical Economy Research Institute ranks Valero 28th among those corporations that emit airborne pollutants in the United States. The ranking is based on both the quantity (3.4 million pounds in 2005) and the toxicity of the emissions.[7]
    Valero was the biggest[8] financial backer of the failed 2010 California Proposition 23, and contributed more than $4 million by August 2010.[9] Had it passed, Proposition 23 would have delayed action on greenhouse gas emissions in the state of California, by delaying current implementation of the California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 until the state attained an unemployment rate of 5.5% for one full year.[10][11] Critics argued that because that had happened only three times over the last 40 years, the proposition would have had the practical effect of repealing the law.[12][13]
    Valero owns two oil refineries in California. The Benicia Refinery is located on the Carquinez Strait, a tributary of the San Francisco Bay. [14] The Wilmington Refinery is located 23 miles (37 km) south of downtown Los Angeles. [15] The top 10 individual sources of California GHG emissions are either oil refineries or power plants. [16]
    They have a dearth of stations coming up the CA coast.

    About 76, I don't know, except that they tend to be a few more cents per gallon more than Valero and even highr when compared to the evil-BP owned Arco stations in CA.

    P.S. I have no financial interest in any of these companies. I used to be a research chemist for Chevron, and by all means, don't buy gas there. I don't.

    “Science is like sex: sometimes something useful comes out, but that is not the reason we are doing it.” – Richard Feynman (-9.00,-8.86)

    by Jonathan Hoag on Mon May 28, 2012 at 03:44:42 PM PDT

    •  Thanks... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, Jonathan Hoag

      Bottom line is there are no good companies (again like the tobacco industry) just horrid and slightly less horrid. Conserv Fuel seemed a good option, but doesn't cover all of where we want  to go. So sounds like Valero (slightly cheaper) and 76 (slightly more expensive) are the options that are better than the worst companies I mention in the diary.

      Thanks for  the info!

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Mon May 28, 2012 at 04:30:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not Valero (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mole333

    We demonstrated at a Valero station in Fresno in October 2010 because, along with Tesoro, it funded Proposition 23, which would have undone California's landmark clean energy law passed in 2006. Valero and Tesoro are two Texas oil companies whose California oil refineries are among the top ten polluters in the state. My diary about the demonstration is here.

    The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

    by ybruti on Mon May 28, 2012 at 03:49:01 PM PDT

    •  Sigh... (0+ / 0-)

      Is Valero better than Exxon/Mobil, Chevron and BP? I guess to some degree that is what I am faced with. I do appreciate the info, and it does make Valero a lower option.

      But I see this as basically leaving Conserv Fuel...which would be fine on our usual trip in the LA/Santa Barbara area. But I see nothing that ls clearly superior outside that area. Which is probably just plain the reality. Driving a car means supporting sucky companies.

      Who do you patronize over Valero? I assume you drive a car so have to fuel up. So what options to you see as preferable? I do try to adhere to boycotts where possible (all the way back to Cesar Chavez's grape boycott, the Coors boycott and the Domino's Boycott). But I also like knowing better options where possible.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Mon May 28, 2012 at 04:35:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Costco (0+ / 0-)

        I don't know who their supplier is, but their prices are best. If not Costco, then Arco, again for price.

        The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

        by ybruti on Mon May 28, 2012 at 05:56:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Arco (0+ / 0-)

          We do default to them some times because of cost and because they once were good...but they are now BP so hard to stomach.

          Thanks though. Good to know our existing ideas fit what is on the ground.

          I assume you need to be a member to do Costco. I am a shareholder (tiny number of shares) but not a member.

          FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

          by mole333 on Mon May 28, 2012 at 06:08:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  7-11 (0+ / 0-)

    Citgo is at 7-11's.

    •  Heard mixed things on this...but... (0+ / 0-)

      I need to recheck this. From what I have heard 7-11 dropped Citgo some time back (2006???). So I don't think this is true any more. However, it is worth rechecking. Thanks.

      FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

      by mole333 on Mon May 28, 2012 at 04:37:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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