Explosive Ethics

by Mark on May 6, 2010

What if I told you there is a foreign operation with a wide network in the United States that is responsible for a number of explosions killing a couple dozen Americans? What if you knew the same organization is accountable for three major environmental disasters in North America? Call Home Security? Don’t expect a reply. You might find them in your neighborhood under the guise of ‘BP’ – British Petroleum.

My Consumer Behavior class investigated British Petroleum and two other global companies with questionable ethical behavior. Here is what they found:
• In 1991 an oil tanker, leased by BP, spilled 300,000 gallons of fuel disrupting twenty miles of California coastline at a half-billion dollar cost;
• In March 2005 an explosion at the BP Texas City Refinery claimed 15 lives and injured over 100. Prior to the disaster BP reduced maintenance at the facility as a cost cutting measure. The petroleum giant agreed to a post-disaster improvement plan. In October 2009 BP received was fined $87M, the largest penalty on record, by the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration for failing to make the agreed safety improvements from the 2005 explosion. In that timeframe 2 more employees died on the job;
• In 2006 BP was forced to shut down its operations in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. 16 miles of their pipeline were leaking oil and other chemicals, soiling the North Slope. Found criminally liable, BP had neglected to clean bacteria out of the pipeline for approximately eight years. Emergency repairs shut down that portion of the Alaskan pipeline for 16 days, driving up prices at the pump.

Just a few days ago an offshore drilling rig, leased by BP, exploded in the Gulf Coast, killing 8 and injuring 10 workers. BP initially claimed the resulting oil leak from the ocean floor was only 1,000 barrels per day. Actually, 5,000 barrels a day are leaking. Desperate actions are trying to cap the leak as the wildlife, vacation, and fishing shorelines of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida are threatened.

It is shocking to watch a $250 billion dollar corporation consistently make disastrous decisions based on cost cutting actions and neglect. The jury is still out for the gulf disaster, but it will surprise no one to find maintenance and other poor decisions within the oil-laden ruins.

We debate who should or should not be in our country. Should that debate also apply to companies that pay little regard for human lives and our environment? I plan to boycott BP gas stations, even if forced to push an empty car. Besides, if they maintain their stations like their other facilities, if may be a safer decision.

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