Thursday, May 5, 2011

Experiential Journal: In-Depth Insight from a Documentary

By Brittany Shann

For my experiential component, I viewed the PBS Frontline documentary called “The Spill” that told the story of BP’s horrible track record in the events leading up to the infamous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.  The documentary outlined all of the catastrophes that the oil company helped to cause throughout the past decade.  These calamities claimed the lives of twenty-two workers and caused unspeakable environmental destruction.

As consumers of the media, we were delivered the story of the spill in a manner that provided only a small insight into the magnitude of what actually happened.  Without doing further research, I was able to gather that BP was responsible for one of the largest oil spills in our country’s history.  Though that says a lot for itself, the documentary also provided more information about the carelessness that BP had with most of their facilities.  By showing this carelessness, it caused me to place more blame on the company than I had been doing.  Initially, I had come to the conclusion that it was pure human error and wasn’t too quick to place blame on BP as a company.  In viewing the documentary, I learned that BP has a track record of ignoring serious, dangerous problems until they were essentially forced to deal with them.  Unfortunately, in doing this, it cost many lives of BP workers and their management didn’t do much to correct their problem.  Money was the most important thing to them, which seems to be the case in most of these types of instances. 

Perhaps the event that “sealed the deal” for me was the destruction of the oil rig during Hurricane Dennis in 1999.  BP sunk billions of dollars into the development of this oil rig and it was sure to be a durable, dependable structure at the very least.  The destruction that occurred appeared to be the result of the storm, in which case it wouldn’t have been as embarrassing.  However, further investigation proved that it was the fault of the workers who assembled the rig; they didn’t properly install the valves that were responsible for getting rid of excess water.  Instead, the rig took on more water, which brought it to the lopsided, almost entirely-destroyed position that it was in after the hurricane.  Anybody can make mistakes, but BP is a huge company that has a history of careless, unsafe errors that have led to catastrophes and death.  There is ultimately no excuse for a company that has the financial means to correct their mistakes and to make their facilities safe and secure for its workers.  Based on everything they caused in the past, it is no surprise that they were responsible for an oil spill that was one of the worst in United States history.

Additionally, the United States government placed very light consequences on those companies who were responsible for catastrophes like the ones BP caused.  Essentially, a company could cause death and destruction, pay a small fine, and carry on like nothing ever happened.  There wasn’t even an additional penalty for repeat offenders, so BP was in the clear despite the many problems they caused.

My final writing project assessed offshore oil drilling and the environmental impacts it could have.  I didn’t address the inner workings of the BP oil spill or get too in depth with the problems it could cause.  This documentary clearly outlines how detrimental drilling could be in regards to oil spills, but BP is an exception.  The company was poorly run for years and it didn’t improve even with a change in management.  They were careless in the way they ran things.  Theoretically, if they paid more attention to their work and the way the facilities were run, there wouldn’t be as many problems.  Unfortunately, it did happen and it is possible again in the future.

Ultimately, the documentary provided me with an insight into BP and it showed me that they were very careless in they were doing.  The information given throughout the documentary is extremely useful and powerful and I recommend it to anyone.

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