BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill: environmental and ethical consequences

Last Updated: 02 Apr 2023
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BP Oil Spill

Under the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore drilling rig of British Petroleum (BP) caused an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The incident occurred on April 20th, 2010, when equipment failed and caused the explosion, sinking the rig and causing the death of 11 workers, with more than 17 workers injured. The British-based energy company also faced other problems at the site of the oil spill. More than 40 million gallons (estimated data) of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a very serious threat to wildlife as it causes water pollution. The oil spill affected many coastal areas in the US, such as Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. The oil spill disaster strongly damaged the wildlife cycle in the Gulf of Mexico, and many species were pushed to extinction. Similarly, thousands of businesses were forced to shut down. Many people have questioned the ethical decisions and core value system that BP used to cut corners with the accident, namely, the race to maximize profits at all costs.

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We are all aware that one of the main causes that led to the disaster was the result of bad decisions, in which a less expensive option (such as running a test or using a particular kind of casing pipe) would save lives. "Zero dollars were spent on research concerning how to handle oil spills for offshore drilling by BP, despite the company's net profits - above and beyond all salaries, bonuses, or overhead costs - of more than $59 BILLION" ("The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC, aired at 7 p.m. EST on June 28, Monday). The paperwork submitted to the U.S. Minerals Management Services (MMS) by BP in 2008 was 582 pages long, supposedly covering all of BP's operations in the Gulf of Mexico. However, they omitted their ability to deal with oil spills in a worst-case scenario just to get their permits for drilling. Another very unethical act by BP was when President Obama was scheduled to visit Louisiana back then, BP hurriedly "hired" temporary workers and handed out gear (paper haz-mat uniforms, etc.), but told these temps not to talk to anyone. As soon as all the TV cameras and the president's motorcade left the area, these "for show only" hires immediately stopped working (a local government official took photos and attempted to question a few, who advised him they were "not supposed to talk to anyone, on BP's orders"). They did not come back on the following day or any day thereafter.

On the zero dollars spent on developing back-up systems, BP informed "The Rachel Maddow Show's" representative that they "rely" on an organization which they claimed "does spill research," even though the investigators from the show discovered the organization named by BP does not receive any money from BP, nor do they conduct research on ways to stop oil spills. In other words, BP was unethical and lied again. This British Petroleum is listed as the fourth wealthiest corporation in the entire world, yet they lied about the extent of their spill.

They fudged figures and information (against the law) to get a license to drill in American waters. They did not even bother to change the batteries for the system they claimed was their "back-up." BP, like most oil companies (and other businesses), aims to make as much money as possible. In this case, due to the big cover-up the media did, BP was forced to fix the problem, and it is a problem that is costing them major money, both through clean-up and lost product. BP has so far committed $42 billion to cleaning up.

I really hope that BP (and other companies) learned the lesson that cutting corners and cost reduction are not the only points that organizations should focus on. It is not safe to cut corners and presume that things will not happen. Make ethical decisions, have back-up plans, and prepare for worst-case scenarios. If BP were more ethical and did the right things, either by using the latest safety precautions when drilling (not cutting corners and reducing costs), and moving faster and more dynamically when the disaster occurred, they could have avoided billions in clean-up and damages that they faced and are still facing now.

The BP oil spill has offered a moment for reflection for leaders around the world about their most basic beliefs. To many people, the BP oil spill has brought home the idea that future corporate leaders must develop personal ethical standards for making decisions that go beyond just a financial calculation. There are plenty of business practices that are legal but fall short of being ethical. But I believe being ethical does pay off, slowly and steadily. You may lose some opportunities, but your reputation and self-perception are invaluable.

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BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill: environmental and ethical consequences. (2017, Jan 31). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/bp-oil-spill/

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