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LAND ETHIC AND OIL SPILL IN GULF MEXICO

By: Sri Rezeki


0806322962

UNIVERSITY OF INDONESIA
2010

1
CHAPTER I

PREFACE

I. I BACKGROUND

Environmental issue is the issue that we face today. It’s not only simple problem but it’s really urgent problem
that need to be solved. In the discipline of International Relations which used to discuss about “high politics”,
that used to discuss about state and interstate conflict, environmental issue is like untouchable. But then, today
is not same like yesterday, today’s problem is more complicated. On of that complicated problem is our
environment. Environment is often being sacrificed due to economic reasons. Environment often denied
because of dilemma between environment and trade. But actually we can not really deny it, since the reality is
never lie. Oil spill that caused ecologically fragile is for instance one of dilemma between environment and
trade.

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which started when an offshore oil rig exploded, caught fire and
sank, has reached the ecologically fragile Louisiana coastline and the mouth of the Mississippi River. The
spreading oil is threatening marshlands along the Louisiana coast and 10 wildlife management areas in
Louisiana and Mississippi as well as oyster, shrimp and other seafood fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.1 This
case is really harmful due to its linked to the biota’s life in the Gulf of Mexico. Furthermore, water is not
something that could only stay in one place, it could move faster as far as its flow gone. Thus, the impact of oil
spill will never only reach one place but also another place. It absolutely could disturb the ecosystem balances.

The oil spill also could have far-reaching effects on America's future energy policies, according to White House
officials and other observers. President Obama's proposal to expand offshore oil and gas exploration and
drilling along the Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Mexico and northern Alaska is about to enter a public comment
period. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that public reaction to the oil spill might force
modifications to the plan.2 From this data above, writer take this case as a background for this paper that try to
shows to anyone the impact of booster economic but harm the environment. In detail, writer attempts to
Identified and evaluated USA’s expand offshore drilling policy which related to its booster economy that
having bad impact to environment and ecosystem directly, as such this oil spill in Gulf of Mexico.

1
Accessed from http://environment.about.com/b/2010/04/29/gulf-coast-oil-spill-could-eclipse-exxon-valdez-disaster.htm on May, 1st
2010 at 21.54.
2
Ibid.
2
I. 2. RESEARCH QUESTION

How’s the view of United States of America’s Government toward the dilemma of economic and the price of
human and environment in case of Oil Spill in Gulf Mexico? The Writer believes that there are no other
options toward the issue of damaging economy, only one option that should be taken by USA’s
government that they have to take the environment as priority. Although if Obama thought that the
economic development will solve future environment problems, but Obama could not know what will
happen even for seconds later. Economy and environment would always be a dilemma but a dilemma
doesn’t mean that economy will always become the priority. Saves our life from damaging environment is
the best priority.

3. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

Environmental ethics is offer a new paradigm to treat the environment. It has 3 models, they are Shallow
Environment Ethics, Intermediate Environmental Ethics and Deep Environmental Ethics.3 These three models
also known as Anthropocentrism, Biocentrism, Ecocentrism. These three paradigms have their own view
toward the human, environment and the relationship between human and environment. 4 But for this Oil Spill
case, the theory that being used is Anthropocentrism, Environmental Security and also Ecological
Modernization.

I.3.1. Anthropocentrism
Anthropocentrism is the theory of environment ethic that sees human as the centre of universe system. Human
and their interests are the navigation of ecosystem’s form and of the policy taken which related to the
environment, direct or indirectly. Within this theory, the highest value is human and their interest. Only Human
who has value and getting attention. The rest would has the value if it provides human interest. Environment
therefore is seen as the object or tool for fulfilling human needs. Environment does not have its own value.
Because of its characteristic is too instrumentalist and egoistic, this theory is known as the shallow
environmental ethics.5

I.3.2. Environmental Security

3
Richard Silvan and David Benneth, The Greening of Ethics (Cambridge: The White House Press, 1994) pp. 9.
4
A. Sony Keraf, Etika Lingkungan (Jakarta: Penerbit Buku Kompas, 2002)pp. 32.
5
Ibid. pp.33
3
According to Soroos, the major concern in this view is the potential (for) major environmental changes to
generate and intensify conflict between state and within states. The environmental security project is therefore
one which seeks to identify the kinds of environmental degradation which might present threats to national
security, particularly through interstate war or violence.6 Even though environmental security is identified as a
“non-military threat,” environmental politics are militarized because the “threat” element is defined, in the final
analysis, not by the impact on human security or even economic security but by its relationship, through the
potential for conflict, with the military and geopolitical security of the state.7

I.3.3. Ecological Modernization

Ecological Modernization Theory was first developed in the early 1980s primarily in a small group of western
European countries, notably Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (UK). The first contributions
are especially by Joseph Huber. The aim of Ecological Modernization Theory has been to analyze how
contemporary industrialized societies deal with environmental crises. The core of all studies in the tradition of
Ecological Modernization focuses on (existing and programmed) environmental reforms in social practices,
institutional designs and societal and policy discourses to safeguard societies’ sustenance bases.8

6
Lorraine Elliot, The Global Politics of the Environment (London: MACMILLAN PRESS Ltd, 1998)pp. 220
7
Ibid.,pp. 230
8
Accessed from http://www.tricity.wsu.edu/sonn/ecomod_intro.htm On May, 12th 2010 at 15.31.
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CHAPTER II

CONTENT

II.1 USA’s Expanding Offshore Drilling Policy

Since Obama has elected as a new President of the United States, economic development is being his main
target, moreover USA is suffering financial crisis at the end of 2008. President Obama signed legislation to
jumpstart the economy, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, less than a month after his
inauguration.9 Thus, one of his economic policies is expanding the offshore drilling to add the national budget
from the benefits of offshore drilling policy. In line with his predecessor, George Walker Bush, Obama seems
still continue their perspective of global environmental issue. As what Bush has stated, “Our approach must be
flexible to adjust to new information and take advantages of new technology. We must always act to ensure
continued economic growth in prosperity for our citizens and citizens throughout the world.”10 It looks like their
blue print of environmental issue is depending on their economic situation. Thus, it’s no doubt for Obama to
still run his expanding offshore drilling policy in the of economic reasons.

His plan to open up the Atlantic coast and parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas drilling has
been couched as a broad approach to weaning Americans off foreign fossil fuels. Under the plan, areas that have
been under a long standing drilling moratorium would be open to exploration and production. Among them,
eastern Gulf of Mexico, which would allow drilling within 125 miles of Florida’s coast; as well as in the
Atlantic Ocean from central Florida up to the northern end of Delaware. Two lease sales-one 50 miles off the
coast of Virginia and another in the Cook Inlet in Alaska-are already planned for 2012. The department of
interior also will open up nearly 130 million acres in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the Arctic Ocean to oil
and gas exploration once studies of the area are completed.11

Offshore drilling is big business in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for nearly a third of U.S. oil production,
but it's also a dangerous business that poses serious human and environmental risks. Roughly 35,000 people
work on 90 big offshore oil rigs and 3,500 production platforms in the gulf. Since 2001, there have been 858
fires and explosions, 1,349 injuries and 69 deaths at those facilities. Under Obama's proposed expansion of
offshore drilling, those numbers are bound to increase significantly, especially in the Arctic where extreme

9
Accessed from http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/ On May, 7th 2010 at 20.19.
10
Keith L. Shimko, International Relations Perspectives and Controversies (USA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008) pg. 371.
11
Accessed from http://industry.bnet.com/energy/10003735/obamas-offshore-drilling-plan-a-hail-mary-pass-to-save-the-climate-bill/
On May, 7th 2010 at 20.45.
5
12
weather conditions will make it harder to rescue workers and contain oil spills. Knowing this consequences
then why this policy is still accomplished? Because Most of the offshore gas is relatively expensive to bring to
market, and the recent technological innovations that significantly lowered the cost of recovering abundant
shale gas resources are likely to make the offshore areas a less attractive source of natural gas supply. Thus,
unless there is a substantial expansion of natural gas demand beyond what is currently forecast, the government
is unlikely to see major increases in offshore drilling for natural gas.13

Obama is also trying to develop a comprehensive national energy policy that will enable the United States to
make the transition from dirty and finite energy sources such as oil and coal to clean, renewable energy. It is
essential to our survival-as a nation and a species-that we accomplish that goal, and that USA provides the
leadership required to help the rest of the world achieve it, too. 14

Completing that transition won't be quick or easy. It's going to take decades. According to some estimates, the
global supply of oil will run out within the next 20 to 30 years. The gradual increase of renewable energy use
could extend that timeframe, and better conservation and fuel-efficiency may push the final deadline even
farther into the future. No matter what the government do, however, it is almost certain that the world will run
out of oil within this century. Before we do, it is almost equally certain that we will squeeze out every drop of
petroleum our planet has to offer--no matter how costly or hard to reach. 15

We are simply too dependent on petroleum in too many ways, and we waited too long to get serious about
developing realistic alternatives to abandon oil entirely in favor of cleaner fuels. With that in mind, it makes
sense for Obama to include offshore oil and gas exploration as part of a comprehensive energy policy-assuming
he can gain congressional support for his clean-energy agenda.16 But Obama, and the presidents who come after
him, must never forget that finding and extracting oil offshore sometimes comes at a high price in human life
and environmental damage. Ordering the expansion of offshore drilling should be done with as much gravity as
ordering American troops into harm's way.17

Meanwhile, Obama should immediately order federal regulators at the U.S. Minerals and Management Service
to prioritize and accelerate the work they have already begun on new safety rules aimed at preventing human
error, which research has identified as a critical factor in a high percentage of offshore drilling accidents. The
president also needs to make sure the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are setting

12
Accessed from http://environment.about.com/b/2010/04/24/offshore-oil-tragedy-should-obama-reverse-new-policy-after-deadly-
explosion-and-spill.htm On May, 1st 2010 at 22.40.
13
Ibid.,
14
Accessed from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/05/barackobama.uselections2008 On May, 7th 2010 at 19.48.
15
Accessed from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/us/politics/28drill.html?ref=us On May, 7th 2010 at 19.53.
16
Ibid
17
Ibid.
6
environmental standards for offshore drilling are tough enough to lessen the chance of major oil spills in U.S.
waters.18

II.2. The Chronologies of the Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico


Below are the chronologies of the oil spill in Gulf of Mexico:19

April 20, 2010 - Explosion and fire on Transocean Ltd drilling rig Deepwater Horizon licensed to BP; 11
workers missing, 17 injured. The rig was drilling in BP's Macondo project 42 miles southeast of Venice,
Louisiana, beneath about 5,000 feet (1,525 meter) of water and 13,000 feet under the seabed. A blowout
preventer, intended to prevent release of crude oil, failed to activate.

April 22 - The Deepwater Horizon rig, valued at more than $560 million, sinks in 5,000 feet (1,525 meters) of
water. A five-mile long oil slick is seen.

April 23 - The US Coast Guard suspends search for missing workers, all thought to have been near the site of
the blast, and are presumed dead.

April 25 - The Coast Guard says remote underwater cameras detect the well is leaking 1,000 barrels of crude oil
per day (bpd). The agency calls the leak a "very serious spill" that threatens on-shore ecosystems along the Gulf
Coast. It approves a plan to have remote underwater vehicles activate blowout preventer and stop leak. Efforts
to activate the blowout preventer fail.

April 26 - BP's shares fall 2pc on fears the cost of cleanup and legal claims will deal the London-based energy
giant a heavy financial blow.

April 27 - The U.S. Departments of Interior and Homeland Security announce plans for a joint investigation of
the explosion and fire. The Coast Guard said the leaking crude may be set ablaze to slow the spread of oil in the
Gulf.

April 28 - The Coast Guard says the flow of oil is 5,000 bpd, five times greater than first estimated. Controlled
burns begin on giant oil slick, but shifting winds are expected to push crude ashore.

April 29 - U.S. President Barack Obama pledges "every single available resource" including the U.S. military,
to contain the spreading spill, which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says is of "national

18
Accessed from http://environment.about.com/od/environmentallawpolicy/a/obama_offshore.htm On May, 7th 2010 at 20.03
19
Accessed from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/7677198/Gulf-of-Mexico-oil-spill-timeline.html On May,
7th 2010 at 20.09.
7
significance." Obama also says BP is responsible for the cleanup. Louisiana declares state of emergency due to
threat of state's natural resources.

April 30 - A top Obama aide says no drilling will be allowed in new areas, as Obama had recently proposed,
until the cause of the Deepwater Horizon accident is known. The U.S. Justice Department said a team of
lawyers was monitoring the spill. BP Chairman Tony Hayward said the company took full responsibility for the
spill and would pay all legitimate claims and the cost for the cleanup. The Interior Department orders safety
inspections of all 30 deepwater drilling rigs and 47 deepwater production platforms.

May 1 - The Coast Guard says the leak will affect the Gulf shore.

May 2 - Obama visits the Gulf Coast to see cleanup efforts first hand. U.S. officials close areas affected by the
spill to fishing for an initial period of 10 days.

May 3 - BP begins construction of three containment chambers - a heavy steel, rectangular-shaped "funnel"
which will be placed over the main leak site. It has a funnel on top that will be connected by pipe to a drillship
to channel the spill until the leak can be stopped with the relief wells. Such chambers have been used in much
shallower waters, but never at such depths. One of the chambers is to be placed over a third, smaller leak. The
third chamber is a backup.

May 4 - BP says it has started drilling a relief well to intercept and isolate the leaking well, but says it could
take three months to complete. BP shares fell more than 4pc in London.

II.3. The Impact of Oil Spill for human and environment

Oil spills present the potential for enormous harm to Deep Ocean and coastal fishing and fisheries. The
immediate effects of toxic and smothering oil waste may be mass mortality and contamination of fish and other
food species, but long-term ecological effects may be worse. Oil waste poisons the sensitive marine and coastal
organic substrate, interrupting the food chain on which fish and sea creatures depend, and on which their
reproductive success is based. Commercial fishing enterprises may be affected permanently. Fishes and sea
creatures are including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds that live in or near the ocean, are also
poisoned by oil waste. The hazards for wildlife include toxic effects of exposure or ingestion, injuries such as
smothering and deterioration of thermal insulation, and damage to their reproductive systems and behaviors.
Long-term ecological effects that contaminate or destroy the marine organic substrate and thereby interrupt the
food chain are also harmful to the wildlife, so species populations may change or disappear.20

20
Accessed from http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Oc-Po/Oil-Spills-Impact-on-the-Ocean.html On May, 7th 2010 at 20.23.
8
Coastal areas are usually thickly populated and attract many recreational activities and related facilities that
have been developed for fishing, boating, snorkeling and scuba diving, swimming, nature parks and preserves,
beaches, and other resident and tourist attractions. Oil waste that invades and pollutes these areas and negatively
affects human activities can have devastating and long-term effects on the local economy and society. Property
values for housing tend to decrease, regional business activity declines, and future investment is risky.21

II.4. ANALYSIS

Human is facing a big dilemma whether they have to develop their economy or sustain the environment.
Particularly in big country as such United States of America. The United States is cautious about embracing
bold programmes that involved heavy intrusion into the functioning of an economic and social system that relies
predominantly on private initiatives and that on the whole has been highly successful. But unfortunately he can
not do the same thing to the environment. It’s because that environment is very vulnerable. Lack of awareness
will damage the environment. Oil spill in Gulf Mexico is for instance.

This oil spill is damaging ecosystem and human life. Maybe for the very first time, Obama thinks that this
offshore drilling’s risk is never as huge as what happen today. He therefore takes this policy to his economic
policy. Environmentalist has reminded him not to expanding the offshore drilling and thinking twice to the
impact of oil spill that might be happen. Obama still believes that this policy is the right policy to move
American from an economy that runs on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels
and clean energy. He argue that "We're announcing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration but in
ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America's natural
resources,"22

Researchers don’t really believe in that reason. Some researcher argue that there might be important political
reasons for expanding offshore oil exploration, the president's proposal to increase offshore drilling is unlikely
to have a significant effect either on the supply of natural gas or on energy security in the U.S.23 If that’s true
reason why Obama put expanding policy in his economic policy, then writer starts to ask question, do the
military needs is really a priority than the price of human life and other creatures? Military is might be a basic
of a country’s defense, but if an environment already damaged, needs more budget to cleaning it up and there is
no guarantee that it could be back like before.

21
Ibid.,
22
Accessed from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/31/obama-oil-drilling-plan-e_n_519553.html On, May, 8th 2010 at 19.05
23
Accesed from http://www.rff.org/wv/archive/2010/04/06/the-unintended-consequences-of-expanded-offshore-drilling.aspx On May,
8th 2010 at 19.32.
9
Writer argue, economic and military are not a reason to sacrifice the environment. Why? Because environment
is not something that renewable, takes ages to make it backs like the way it is before. Moreover the damage of
environment could torture human’s life and other creature’s life. It’s directly could damage the economy of one
country too. We could imagine how much the national budget spends to clean the environment up. It’s because
the costs of oil spill are both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative costs include loss of the oil, repair of
physical facilities, payment for cleaning up the spill and remediating the environment, penalties assessed by
regulatory agencies, and money paid in insurance and legal claims. Qualitative costs of an oil spill include the
loss of pristine habitat and communities, as well as unknown wildlife and human health effects from exposure
to water and soil pollution. We surely will lose much if the environment is damaging.

The damage of environment could also impact the real economy activity. For example, when oil spill happens,
many shrimps, oyster, fishes, and other sea biota are dying. When it’s dying, many fishermen lost their job,
when fishermen lost their job, many restaurants could not run and the rate of unemployment will be adding. The
deflation could be happen and national economic could be threatened. If the economic is not stable then crisis
would come. Crisis could make government cut the military budget. Therefore, environment can not be denied,
it’s interlinked to another aspect as such economic and military. In tackling this problem, Obama sends some
experts and also military defense to help those experts.

In case of Obama sends the military to the oil spill to help tackle this problem, then writer argue that the issue of
oil spill in Gulf Mexico is not only a common issue anymore. This issue is growing to be environmental
security, it because United States of America does not look this case as a usual catastrophic, they see this as a
national threat for country, and moreover they start to think that this is a kind of conspiracy from their enemy.
It’s now might be still in status of “national significance” but since the leak of this oil spill is growing faster and
reaching the coastline sooner than the level status of this catastrophic could be added to become “national
threat” that should be securitizing by the government.

As what Admiral Landry said that Obama had notified to put the Defense Department involves contributing
technology.24 Till now, it could be still in common problem but when the government put the military to also
tackle this problem, it means the United States of America’s government starts to perceive this problem as
national threat. This is maybe because they realize the direct impact of this tragedy that produces many protests
from fishermen in Lousiana and other states which is impacted by the oil spill. The protest also come from
community of environmentalist who predict this catastrophic is more serious than the Exxon Oil Spill before.

24
Accessed from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/29/us/29spill.html On May, 9th 2010 at 19.55.
10
As usual, a tragedy will invite many issues. For this case, there is an issue that states this oil spill might be a
strategy coming from the British Oil Company (BP) to increase their profit. It because this tragedy makes the
demand of the oil is rising and the supply is decreasing. Uncertainty about the future of supply of oil as demand
rises has continued to push up the price. Governments of some exporting countries have limited access for
foreign oil companies to reserves, while the economic recovery in much of the world has increased demand.25 In
writer’s view, this issue might be true because this tragedy is could less the supply of oil to the other country
and as the economic theory said that when supply is decreasing then the price of oil could be grow higher.

Regardless the issues that comes up, the government of USA has to rethinking and cancels its expanding
offshore drilling policy. It must be hard for USA’s government whether to put economic or environment as
priority. Moreover, its economic recovery is still on going. Now, the environmental problem comes and pushes
them to change their policy. It’s totally not easy for Obama as the president to choose, but as what Obama has
vowed that he is a “green leader”, then put the environment as the priority could be a form of prove to the world
that he is still on his vow.

CHAPTER III

CONCLUSION

25
Accessed from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/business/global/28bp.html?ref=us On May, 9th 2010 at 20.21.
11
Since the international issue is not only about what so-called military issue anymore, then environmental issue
is the real issue that we face today. Environment can not be denied because of economic or military reason. It‘s
because environment is about the place where we live. It’s a crucial element within the human life. Denying the
environment could risk all of components including economy, military, and even human themselves. The case
of oil spill for instance is the huge and serious problem that feared the USA. As what the writer stated above,
actually there are no other options for the Government of USA except prioritize the environment issue, but
unfortunately what they have done showed us that economic reason is the best priority for them. They are
hiding in the name of economic recovery due to financial crisis. Thus, they denied the environmental issue and
still continue their expanding offshore drilling policy.

The Government of United States of America might think that the risk of expanding offshore drilling policy will
never produce these astonishing and damaging impacts to many components. They also probably think that the
risk will easily overcome, but then the reality points differently. The leak of oil spill is now growing faster and
almost reaching the offshore. The ecosystem and human are damaging, it absolutely put four states in America
in fear. Moreover if the leak of oil spill reaches another place, therefore there will be many more areas that
being threaten. Here, writer would like to emphasize that environment can not be denied, why? Because when
the environment is damaging, we would lose more than we thought. It takes ages to recovery the environment.
It also needs much more money to spend for this recovery. Then keep the sustainable of environment is a must.

It must be really hard for a big country as such United States of America to put environment as their priority,
moreover at this time where their economy is still on recovery process. But they still have to put the
environment as their priority if they don’t want to see their people are being threatened by the damaging
environment. What American needs right now actually is Obama’s clear stance, whether he will change his
expanding offshore drilling policy or not. Unfortunately it never comes. The writer thinks although Obama’s
clear stance is not comes yet but the most important thing to do right now by the government of USA is they
have to solve this oil spill problem as soon as possible before the total of victims are growing and also before
the leak of oil spill reach the offshore of another states in USA or reaching the offshore of other countries and
rising conflict that could threat the world peace.

REFERENCES

Books:

12
Amstrong, J. Susan and Richard G. Botzler (ed.), Environmental Ethics: Divergence and Convergence (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1993)pp. 302-310.

Elliot, Lorraine, The Global Politics of the Environment (London: MACMILLAN PRESS Ltd, 1998)pp. 220

George Sessions (ed.), Deep Ecology for the 21st Century: Readings on the Philosophy and Practice of the New
Environmentalism (Boston: Shambhala, 1995)pp. ix.

Keraf, A. Sony, Etika Lingkungan (Jakarta: Penerbit Buku Kompas, 2002) pp. 32.

Shimko, Keith L, International Relations Perspectives and Controversies (USA: Houghton Mifflin Company,
2008) pg. 371.

Silvan, Richard and David Benneth, The Greening of Ethics (Cambridge: The White House Press, 1994) pp. 31

Internet’s Articles :

www.nytimes.com
www.rff.org
www.huffingtonpost.com
www.waterencyclopedia.com
www.telegraph.co.uk
www.environment.about.com
www.industry.bnet.com
www.barackobama.com
www.tricity.wsu.edu

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