Critical Thinking

The Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect.The Gulf

The BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill began on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico on the BP-operated Macondo Prospect.The Gulf oil spill is recognized as the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with the rig leaked about 185 million gallons of oil into the water. The Macondo oil prospect was situated in the Mississippi Canyon, a valley in the continental shelf. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the oil well, over which it was positioned, was located on the seabed 4,993 feet below the surface and extended approximately 18,000 feet into the rock.  From the start on April 20, 2010 to July 15, 2010, it took an entire 87 days to cap off the well which was spewing the oil beneath the ocean where the five million barrels of petroleum had been dumped already. On April 20, 2010, a surge of natural gas blasted through a core recently installed by a multinational contractor company called Halliburton. They attempted to seal the well for later use, which then resulted in the natural gas traveling up the Deepwater rig’s riser to the platform and where it was ignited. Out of the 126 workers on board of the rig during the explosion, over 19 were injured and 11 men were killed. The rig flipped over and sank on the early morning of April 22, 2010, and without any force to halt the operations, oil began to spew into the water with estimated amounts by BP to be about 1,000 barrels per day. However, U.S. government officials thought it to have been more than 60,000 barrels per day. Although BP attempted to turn on the rig’s blowout preventer which was a fail-safe mechanism designed to close the channel from which oil was withdrawing, the device malfunctioned. It affected Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, also including the fishermen who have been fishing for decades. On December 15, 2010, the United States filed a complaint in District Court against BP Exploration & Production and several other defendants responsible for the spill.  There were many moral issues present before, during and after the case of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Lives were lost, and people, animals, businesses and the environment were all affected due to the fact that it was years of cutting corners, not one careless mistake, that caused the explosion. —-BP had more focus on saving money on their costs and than doing what was actually safe for everybody on board and in the surrounding area. The three major decisions I found were the well casing, the number of centralizers used, and the decision not to perform a cement bond log that lead to multiple problems on the day of the explosion.  A similar incident happened at BP’s Texas City Refinery, as talked about in the summary of the case, and this incident was not the first time that maintenance and safety issues were cut back at one of BP’s plants.  This disaster still occurred, even after the explosion in 2005, and being known for an environmentally-friendly company and supposedly focusing on safety issues. I believe the main ethical problem in the case of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has to do with that despite the risks, the company still chose to use cost reduction over caution, and they knew their actions could potentially harm the environment and region as a whole, which resulted in problems lasting lifetimes. —-There were many problems that contributed to the explosion on the rig, discovered during the investigation of the oil spill by many non-governmental and governmental organizations that  proved BP’s unethical behavior led to the disaster. But the main reason, despite the recommended decision by Halliburton, one of the largest multinational corporations, providing oilfield services, was not to install an oil platform. Regardless, BP continued the installation of a drilling rig, and even using the cheaper well design that some investigators considered as “risky”.Another overlooked moral issue relating to the years of cutting corners on safety hazards were the lives lost. Eleven families lost fathers, brothers, sons, grandsons and friends. They lost their lives due to saving costs and taking unnecessary risks, than doing what was actually safe for everyone on the rig, the environment and any living being in that region. This tragedy not only affected the lives lost, but marine animals, the economy and the surrounding area for years and years to come. In addition, it brought massive problems to the endangered species and exotic animals who have their habitat there and thrive there. Dolphins, plants, fish and even birds are affected by the oil slick and accumulation of oil below the surface. The coast of the accident site is home to five different breeds of sea-turtles come to lay their eggs very often. They are the loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, green turtle, hawksbill, and leatherback. On of the species, Kemp’s Ridley Turtle, is the most endangered species within the other four and does not lay its eggs anywhere else in the world. Between 27,000 and 65,000 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have died since then in thanks to the spill. The oil slick on the surface and on the coast threatens the life of the turtles and their nesting grounds, more than they already are threatened. In addition, it’s not one specific thing this oil spill effects when it comes to their survival. They are exposed to the oil by inhalation, aspiration, ingesting contaminated sediment, water, or prey, or by absorbing contaminants through their skin.  According to NOAA scientists and partners, the Bottlenosed dolphins reduced their survival and reproductive success in years after the spill, which led to a 50 percent decline in the population. Not to mention fish, shrimp, and shellfish are basic parts of the Gulf’s food web and are also a crucial factor to the economic health of the surrounding areas. The mahi mahi fish and red snapper, coral colonies, and white and brown pelicans are still struggling to this day, and around 32 percent of laughing gulls have died as a result. Unfortunately, the spill devastated the environment and wildlife everywhere it hit and it is unknown how long the consequences will last.Everyone who works in the seafood or tourism industries was affected as well. The  pollution that led to the mutating and the killing the fish, put workers at the risk of losing their  jobs, subsequently, increasing seafood prices, affecting the restaurant and supermarkets industry, as well.In addition, tourism was affected because people stopped going to the beaches covered in oil, staying away from water sports, or other fun attractions, meaning all those involved in tourism, such as hotels, tour operators, restaurants, boat renting companies were affected with the morality of the actions of the oil spill.  Lastly, the absence of the professional behavior by Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP at that time, could be observed, prejudicing the ethical behavior of BP’s social responsibility. People could see how he was enjoying a yachting holiday during the crisis, which created a negative image on the whole administration of the company. When it comes to ethical theories, I am going to use the utilitarianism theory.The two parts that make up utilitarianism are egoism (maximizing happiness in the business) and altruism (maximizing happiness in others). In the case of the BP Oil Spill, BP did not make themselves happy nor their customers.  The company lost billions of dollars on wasted oil, paying for cleanups, and donations they made as a result of the spill. However, I’m also going to explain how BP’s actions were immoral towards the society. The Utilitarian theory includes the Greatest Happiness Principle, which is defined as bringing the greatest utility to the greatest number of people. Mill describes an action as being moral as long as it is the “best action” to maximize happiness for the greatest number, even if a single person has to sacrifice. BP’s oil spill throughout the Gulf of Mexico is exactly the opposite from Mill’s theory because it actually minimizes utility for everyone who is affected. The spill devastated coastal beaches and businesses that relied on tourism and fishing. The disaster was not only a health concern for people, but it possibly cost businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue. Oil that spread underwater hurt wildlife throughout the gulf and its effects could be seen for years to come. The utilitarian theory would suggest this is immoral because the oil spill caused more harm than good. BP tried to hedge these consequences and help to repair its damaged reputation by taking charge and leading clean-up attempts throughout the gulf. However, the damage had already been done and Mill’s theory places an emphasis on consequences, where positive intentions do not matter ethically. BP’s positive intentions after the oil spill are overlooked when analyzing this news story from a utilitarianism point of view and only the negative consequences are taken it to account.However, to counter this theory, there is also the individualistic business theory, that  states that the only obligation for a company is to make a profit.  The company can do whatever it takes to make a profit, as long as they stay within the legal boundaries. In this case, BP did not do anything unethical because the accident was a result of mechanical failure. A specific part of the rig, which was a cement shoe barrier, eventually led to the explosions.  If the employees knew of this and did not do anything to fix it, it would be considered unethical behavior.  But since they had no knowledge of what was happening, they did not do anything unethical.  The stakeholders in this case are the company, their employees, and the customers.  The Kantian theory of business consists of four parts.  They are that businesses should act rationally, assist others make rational decisions, respect other people, and make decisions based off of goodwill or right intentions. BP did not follow these four rules and they did not respect employees and customers, In addition, they did not take the necessary steps to make sure the equipment was up to date and in good condition. This demonstrates that the company would rather save time and money than to ensure the safety of their workers. They disrespected their customers because after their incident at Texas City, they said they would improve on their workplace safety which they did not. This shows how they are not true to their word, which resulted in the customers losing their trust. The company clearly was not making decisions off of goodwill, because they were just trying to save time and money by not going through the correct safety procedures.There are many overall standpoints and opinions circulating around the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill. I believe the company did not have negative intentions and did not desire the oil spill to happen, because of the amount of money, time and reputation put on them. However, if they had followed their correct safety procedures and actually focused on safety costs rather than cutting corners for money, this incident could have been completely avoided. To prevent further accidents, not only in the United States but globally, I suggest that the company hires a manager or overseers of some sort specifically for issues like this, and to collect physical reports of employees testing out the parts before putting them to use. These reports will be much more credible than verbal confirmation of the quality check of the parts. If they happen to find parts that are not up to standards, they can then notify the manufacturer of the part to prevent them from making more defective parts. This will make the overall process much more effective for both the company, manufacturer and customers in the long run. In addition, I also advise putting a secondary backup mechanism since the first rig blowout preventer mechanism designed to close the channel from which oil was withdrawing had malfunctioned. An important and dangerous machine such as an oil rig should always have two backups to everything in stand of situations such as this one. Especially in the future, because the Earth cannot afford another instance of damaging the environment and living beings that live there.

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