BEEVILLE, Texas -- High gas prices are unquestionably painful in the small South Texas town of Beeville, at least an hour's drive from malls and specialized medical care. But some have voiced doubt about the wisdom of a county board's call for a boycott of
Opponents of the boycott, which starts today, say taxes on oil and gas fund much of Bee County's budget, and they say a boycott could end up harming ''mom-and-pop" gas stations whose main profits are not from oil.
The boycott against the world's largest oil company will continue until gas is down to $1.30 a gallon, said a county judge, Jimmy Martinez, who is the county's highest elected official. A gallon of regular unleaded cost $2.92 on average around the nation, and $2.80 in the Corpus Christi region yesterday, according to the American Automobile Association.
''I understand free enterprise. I understand we live in America. But, by golly, just because they have a license doesn't mean that they can rob," Martinez said.
A poll conducted for The Beeville Bee-Picayune found that 72 percent of those surveyed plan to participate in the boycott.
The rural town of 13,000, about 70 miles south-southeast of San Antonio, has fast-food restaurants and a
''It's hurting everybody; everything is going up except the pay," said Debbie Ponce, a 35-year-old hairdresser who no longer makes the trip in her sport utility vehicle.
Martinez said Exxon, which is based near Dallas, had been targeted because of its size and because of the message it sent with its recent compensation and pension package to its former chief executive, Lee R. Raymond. He received $69.7 million in compensation and a $98 million pension payout after retiring late last year.
Exxon Mobil, which made $36 billion in profits last year, said supply and demand are mainly responsible for the high gas prices and pointed out that only about 13,000 of the country's 170,000 gas stations have the Exxon or Mobil brand. And all but about 1,000 of those are owned by franchises, the company said.
Commissioner Susan Stasny, the dissenter in Monday's 4-to-1 vote, said there was irony at the boycott coming from oil country.
In the past five years, she said, the county received $8 million in oil- and gas-tax revenues; the county's four school districts received a combined $30 million.
''We're all concerned about the price of gasoline," she said. ''However, the oil and gas industry has been very kind to Bee County."
Fuel is the lowest-profit item at the town's three Exxon stations, said the owner, Leticia Muñoz, adding that her 51 employees fear for their jobs. ''They realize if it affects us, it'll affect them," said Muñoz, whose profits come mainly from sales of tacos, sodas, and items other than gas.