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Case Study: Environmental Ethics

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Introduction

Read the following case study and respond to the question below.

In April 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers and spewing four million barrels of light crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest oil spill in U.S. history and ranked among the top 10 world’s worst human-caused environmental disasters. Approximately 47,000 square miles, or one-fifth of the total area of the Gulf, was affected, as well as beaches and coastal marshes. Before it was finally contained three months later, the spill killed hundreds of sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals, in addition to countless fish. BP worked with the U.S. Coast Guard and other government agencies to contain the damage. BP ended active clean-up operation in November 2011 and is now focusing on restoring areas damaged by the spill.

Effects of the spill on the ecosphere and animal life will not be known for years, although recovery has been faster than expected. Hundreds of people, including fishers, shrimpers, and workers in the tourism industry, were out of work as a result of the spill. BP set up a $20 billion fund to compensate victims of the spill. Disputes overcompensation are still ongoing (1).

The explosion causing the spill occurred on April 20, 2010. On April 30, the U.S. Justice Department banned new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. President Barack Obama used the authority granted to the president by the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Land Act, to withdraw all the Chukchi Sea and the majority of the Beaufort Sea in the Arctic from future oil and gas drilling. (2)

The Trump administration has opened up the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic U.S. coastal areas to oil and gas drilling. Environmentalists argue that it would be difficult or almost impossible to contain an oil spill in the Arctic because of the area’s remoteness, the ice cover, and the lack of daylight during the winter months.

Question: Should we be drilling for oil in the Arctic offshore?

Sources

1. Judith Boss. 2020. Analyzing Moral Issues. p. 452. McGraw-Hill Higher Education 7th edition textbook available at https://www.strayerbookstore.com.

2. The Guardian. 2010. Deepwater Horizon: US Bans New Drilling in Gulf of Mexico. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/apr/30/oil-spill-reaches-us-coastline

Instructions

Use the Case Study Assignment Template to do the following:

Describe the relevant facts of the case.

Clarify concepts relevant to the case.

Apply a moral standard to the case.

Articulate a conclusion to the stated question.

Include at least two references, such as the textbook and other readings, to support your arguments.

 

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