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The BP Oil Spill Essay Sample

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The BP Oil Spill Essay Sample

“Thank God men cannot fly and lay waste to sky, as well as the earth,” said Henry David Thoreau on environmental damage. The BP, or British Petroleum, Gulf oil spill has been widely referred to as the biggest environmental disaster that the United States has ever faced, with over four million gallons of oil pouring into the waters off the Mexican Gulf Coast. The BP oil spill occurred in April of 2010. It was, and still is, the biggest oil spill in all of U.S. history. The massive spill wreaked havoc on Gulf Coast inhabitants, including animals, plants, and humans, in late April. Most of the sea life in the Gulf Coast waters perished, drowning in the oil that has monopolized the waters. The BP oil spill has been rated one of the biggest environmental disasters of this century. To examine what contributed to this title, and to stop another disaster like this from happening again, the public must look at how it happened and why, the economic and environmental impact, and the cost of cleaning it up.

The match that lit the fuse of the gigantic spill was a massive explosion on April 20th, 2010, on the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform that killed eleven workers. The spill had already been going on for three months, gushing crude oil into the gulf, before it was finally capped on July 15th, 2010. Even after it had been capped for forty days, the people whose environment was directly affected had not yet been notified of any type of oil spill. An article by World Book confirms how the spill was started: “The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, kills eleven workers and creates the worst environmental disaster in US history. For nearly three months, as BP struggles to cap the leaking well, about 4.9 million barrels of oil gushes into the Gulf.” (World Book 2011)

This explosion directly affected at least eleven families who lost loved ones at the beginning of an enormous environmental crisis which would later affect people around the world through rising gas costs, loss of jobs in the Gulf coast fishing and shrimping industry, and the damaging effects to the coasts of popular tourist destinations. The chief executive of BP is Tony Hayward. He has become the face and voice of a company that Americans have come to hate due to the spill. Some Americans have even suggested that criminal charges be brought against BP oil for the negligence they have shown during and after the spill; “64 percent say the government should pursue criminal charges against BP and other companies involved in the spill” (Langer). In a spill of this enormity, the people have looked for someone to point the finger at and they have chosen BP management, in which the finger may have rightly been pointed.

BP oil has been under close scrutiny since the spill for any type of wrongful actions on BP’s behalf. Some unnecessary risks and ‘corner cutting’ taken by BP have come to light, severely damaging BP’s already damaged public image. These risks indicate to the American public that BP doesn’t care about public, employee, or environmental safety but only about saving money. The public sees and understands the unnecessary risks taken by BP as major contributing factor in the spill. This fact is recorded in a poll done by ABC, “Nonetheless, BP faces deep damage to its public image: nearly three-quarters of Americans, 73 percent, see “unnecessary risks taken by BP and its drilling partners as a significant factor in the spill” (Langer). As mentioned before, over half of the American public thinks that criminal charges should be brought upon BP, and these unnecessary risks could be a prominent reason why.

BP cut corners and used far less than the recommended amounts of materials when building the pipeline. BP didn’t care about any other factors except making and keeping money. BP’s management has been severely questioned since this email has come to light: “ ‘Who cares, it’s done, end of story, will probably be fine.’ Thus, in an e-mail, a manager at BP wrote of the decision to use only a few “centralisers” when cementing into place the pipe that ran from an oil reservoir 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) below the seafloor to Deepwater Horizon to the drilling rig floating 5,000 feet above it” (Briefing). It is almost two years later and perhaps over four million barrels of crude oil have been leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, but the story has still not ended for a lot of people. Those who live on the gulf coast, the chief executive of BP, and the citizens of the United States care very much indeed.

A factor in the extreme damage done by the BP oil spill was the wayin which the spill was handled, not only by BP’s management, but also by the U.S. government. The public outcry at the way the spill was handled has been loud and angry. The rating of the response to spill has been just as shocking as the response to the spill itself. According to ABC, “ Eight in ten criticize the way BP’s handled it – and more people give the federal government’s response a negative rating than did the response to Hurricane Katrina” (Langer). It took over three months for a cleanup project to begin after the well had been capped. For eighty percent of the country to criticize something, there must have been a major injustice, which there was.

A main factor in the lax response may have been that Capitol Hill was more concerned about saving money then actually doing something about the issue that the money was going to be used for. The Huffington post records this, “Since it quickly became evident that the cost of damages to the Gulf would far exceed those figures, a group of Senators, led by Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), tried to change the law. They proposed raising the $75 million cap on liability to $10 billion” (Stien). The government was busy trying to save money in an already bad economy, when the stalling cost more money then just doing what had to be done. Because of this, more damage was done then if the U.S. government had just done what was right and just to begin with. When the spill had finally been contained, the damage had been already done.

The economic damage done by BP oil spill was enormous and the damage done to the Gulf ecosystem even more so. BP ignored the first incidents that contributed to the massive spill which lead to thousands of pounds of toxic waste being dumped into the gulf. “On April 6, a fire had damaged a seal on a hydrogen compressor at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas. Rather than shut down the refinery to make repairs, the company continued operations and attempted to burn off the leaking gases. BP reported that over the next 40 days, the refinery released as least 538,000 pounds of toxic chemicals, including the carcinogen benzene” (World book 2011). The fact that BP looked the other way when a problem first arose shows what kind of company they really are: one that doesn’t care about anything but themselves.

The full extent of the spill has yet to be determined by scientists but it is sure to be a huge detriment to the ocean’s ecosystem. There was also agreement that it was too soon for long-term impacts to manifest themselves, such as disruptions to ecosystems’ food chains. As scientists continue to gather data, the public should know the full damage in a few years, permanent and temporary. “This is why it was important for the data collection currently being carried out by the NRDA to continue, even if there was an out-of-court settlement,” said Stan Senner, Director of Conservation Science for Ocean Conservancy (testimony)” (Kniver). If the data is not collected by scientists, fishermen and shrimpers may not know when it is safe to return to their jobs, and could end up damaging a already fragile ecosystem.

The health effects of the oil spill to humans and animals has also been drastic and the health effects on people supposedly due to the oil spill have now gone to court. “In August, workers and residents filed a 10 billion class action lawsuit against BP, alleging that the toxic gases caused respiratory ailments and other health problems” (World Book). The inhabitants of the gulf have been experiencing symptoms of crude oil exposure for almost two years now. Symptoms of crude oil exposure include itchy eyes, watery eyes, nosebleeds, wheezing, sneezing, and coughing. In addition to human health effects; endangered animals are also starting to disappear from the gulf at a startling rate, even for an endangered species.

“The National Wildlife Federation reports that already more than 150 threatened or endangered sea turtles are dead. And 316 seabirds, mostly brown pelicans and northern gannets, have been found dead along the Gulf Coast as a result of the spreading oil” (Buczynski). Sea turtles are a threatened and endangered species due to pollution already in the ocean systems, so the dead sea turtles are a bad sign for scientists. On the bright side though, things in the gulf may not be as bad as feared, but horrible surprises are still popping up. “In an interview with the AP news agency, she said that the health of the Gulf is ‘much better than people feared,’ but the jury was out about what the end result would be. ‘It’s premature to conclude that things are good. There are surprises coming up – we’re finding dead baby dolphins,’ she observed” (Kinver). If the scientists are finding dead baby dolphins, that may mean that the oil pollution could be affecting the reproductive system of dolphins, or that their fragile newborn bodies are not able to deal with the heavy pollution.

Two years have now passed from the capping of the oil spill that left a lasting effect on the Gulf coast ecosystem, but the long-term damage done could be worse than the immediate damage. After the spill, a new study was done by non- BP affiliated personnel which has brought to light several factors; one, that BP lied about the size of spill, and two, that it was far bigger than anyone could have imagined. “New estimates show the undersea well has spilled between 17 and 39 million gallons. These estimates dwarf those of BP, who claimed the spill had only released 11 million gallons to date, and means that the Gulf leak is far bigger than Exxon Valdez, making it the worst spill in American history” (Buczynski). If that is the case, then the damage would also be far worse than what BP told the public it was. Since they lied about the size, the government and the clean up crews did not completely know what they were up against.

Although the spill is still mainly isolated in the Gulf, it is located in prime hurricane territory; soon the states surrounding the Gulf coast may be experiencing an oil spill on land and not just in the sea. “As much as we’d like to forget it, the Gulf Coast is prime hurricane country, and if a storm blows in, the result could be devastating. The presence of oil could lead to a more powerful hurricane because crude accumulating at the surface could be raising the temperature of the surrounding water” (Buczynski). In a area that has recently suffered through Hurricane Katrina, a hurricane powered by the biggest oil spill in all of U.S. history has the possibility of being the worst hurricane the country has ever faced. After this tragic oil disaster, BP shareholders had a decision to make: abandon ship or stick around. The choice they made wasn’t shocking in the very least; they have shunned BP in not only the public facets, but in the stock market as well. “Shareholders have dropped its stock as if it were not merely oily, but radioactive. America’s Chief Executive, lacking the ability to stop the leak, has found that he needs, as he put it, an a_ _ to kick, and BP’s a_ _ is the obvious choice” (Briefing).

Shareholders made a decision to not be part of a company that not only stood for bad decisions, but for a priority that had everything to do with money. BP Oil faced more than losing just their reputation, but also value in the face of their shareholders. BP now stands for a company that isn’t worth sticking around for, and their shares now reflect that: “BP share prices have now lost over 35% of their value since the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig” (Stockerblog). This shows that the fact stills remains that shareholders can’t trust BP to uphold their end by taking care of building codes and the environment. After this large spill it was expected that gas prices would rise but because of the stockholders rampant ‘abandon ship’ philosophy, it had more of an effect on gas prices then expected. “This collective loss of revenue is due to the public disdain that has followed since the major oil spill, which consequently has had an effect on sales at the pump as the negative coverage continues to haunt BP’s share prices” (Stockerblog). In an already bad economy, rising gas prices have a major affect on U.S. citizen’s bank accounts.

The clean up of the BP oil spill did not start until three months after the spill; causing hundreds of more creatures to perish in the choking ocean waters. Although it did not start until after the spill was capped, a massive number of volunteers and scientists got involved in the spill to help out, and numbers do make a difference.“By August, 52,000 people were participating in the oil-spill cleanup, which was managed by a joint federal-industry response team. However, the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences didn’t secure funding to start a long-term study of cleanup workers’ health until several months after the spill began” (Casselman). Much of the damage had already been done by the time the oil cleanup had begun. Although the spill has been cleaned up, at least half of the oil remains trapped 5,000 miles under water and may never be reached.

Even though the BP oil spill is now mostly cleaned up, there is still a danger to humans and animals alike. There are some people that are looking very, very closely, maybe too close for comfort, at the animal life in the gulf. “Gambling websites are now placing odds on what species will be first to become extinct as a result of the oil belching from BP’s ruptured well” (Buczynski). All of the money used to place bets on the animals’ possible extinction should be used to protect those very same animals. Oil is still affecting the lives of people living and working in the Gulf. Fishermen and shrimpers have had to suspend their operations because of the damage that was done by the worst oil spill in all of U.S. history. With half of the oil still trapped far below the surface of the ocean waters, it is anyone’s guess what it can and will do to the future health of the Gulf of Mexico.

In conclusion, the BP oil spill is one of the most severe environmental disasters of this century. The public needs to understand the severity of the BP oil spill so they can try to prevent another incident like this one. In addition to trying to prevent another incident like this one, the public needs to continue to try and clean up the spill. With thousands of pounds of oil still a factor in the Gulf coast, people’s lives are still being compromised. BP oil has not been punished for their wrongful actions that led to the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The Bible says that we should take care of our earth because it is the Lord’s ( Psalms 24:1). Just as the earth belongs to God, so does everything in it. Deuteronomy 10:14 says this, “To the Lord your God belongs the heavens, even the highest of heavens, the earth and everything in it.” Every creature that was killed by the pollution in the Gulf was God’s, and they are His creation. Apart from the fact that we should take care of the earth because it is God’s, we are called to do so. Proverbs 12:10 says,”A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.” If the people of this world are righteous in their lives and take care of their world, the world will be a much better place to live in.

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