Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Experiential Journal: Addressing the Fossil Fuel Mess
By Lisa Quaglino
For the first part of my CEC requirement, I watched the documentary Frontline: The Spill, which covered the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Through a series of interviews with employees and government experts on safety regulations, investigators were able to show the many missteps inside the BP corporation that lead to the tragic spill. The documentary states BP’s rise in power caused them to overlook the safety of both workers and their equipment in order to quickly find more oil and begin drilling.
Similar to the Ford paint sludge incident, BP’s goal was to make as much money as possible, in the cheapest way possible, and that meant ignoring environmental regulations. The film discusses BP’s numerous statements about promises to fix its flaws, and shows their inability to deliver on these promises. The spill, which took place on April 20, 2010 was caused by an explosion of the Deep Horizon, a drilling rig, is said to have leaked around 210 million gallons of oil during the time it took to cap the wellhead. Investigations of the incident show that BP was to blame for defective cement work on the well. The explosion also killed 11 employees.
Further investigations during the Frontline documentary travel to BP’s other sites in Alaska and Texas, showing a large number of safety violations within these refineries as well. It was stated that workers knew profits came first, and the company’s main goal was to make money. Had they taken precautions, followed safety regulations, and learned from past mistakes, like an explosion at their Texas City refinery, it is possible that the spill could have been prevented. Also, similar to the Ford Plant incident, had someone been making sure that BP was keeping their word and working to prevent future environmental disasters, the spill could have been avoided. They did, however, get involved with the clean up and are responsible for payouts to those who suffered due to their lack of safety regulations and enormous environmental impact.
After watching the film on the oil spill, I researched similar topics through the Society of Environmental Journalists website. Multiple articles appeared about other events which involved the spilling of oil and harm to the environment, such as an event in Arkansas where an Exxon pipeline began leaking during a transfer of crude oil to Canada. Thousands of barrels of oil are said to have spilled, similar to a spill by the company in 2011 in the Yellow Stone River. The company faces millions of dollars in fines, just like BP for their spill in the Gulf, but these spills continue to happen, showing that fines may not be an effective form of punishment or regulation.
Many other articles discuss the difficulties associated with oil, not only in the case of spills, but also acquiring fossil fuels. Until we can figure out a way to slowly reduce our dependance on oil, there must be harsher regulations to put an end to spills and their environmental impacts.
Through the documentary and my research, I have learned that there is much that needs to be done in order to reduce environmental risks within oil companies. It is said that many of these incidents could have been less severe, or avoided completely, had safety and other regulations been up to standards. Our society needs to find a way to safely extract and use fossil fuels while simultaneously searching for ways to become less dependent on them. With combined efforts in both of these areas, it is possible that we can find a way to use our resources, both natural and renewable, in a way that puts little to no strain on the environment, ensuring a clean and productive future without fear of major environmental disasters.