When one thinks of oil companies, their efforts in preserving the environment are rarely considered. They have a reputation of disregarding the environment—a reputation that is sometimes justified. For example, several large oil spills have occurred in the Persian Gulf, and responsible parties made little attempt to clean up the mess. Now, a decade later in some cases, the damages remain. However, this reckless disregard is not always the case.
Bad oil spills are bad for business, so some companies actively work to preserve the environment as they drill and transport oil. When accidents happen as a result of negligence or some other reason, the oil companies try to preserve the local environment and clean up the spill.
Oil Companies Clean Up Their Mess
In 1979, the Mexican oil company Pemex was drilling an oil well when there was an accident. The Ixtoc I oil spill, as it came to be known, spilled an estimated three million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The company contracted an aviation company to spray dispersants over the water and spent over $100 million cleaning up affected Mexican shorelines.
A more recent spill, the Deepwater Horizon spill, is another example of an oil company working to clean up their mess. In 2010, an explosion occurred on an oil platform, creating a sea floor oil gusher. The incident, largely the result of poor adherence to safety regulations, spilled nearly five million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico before being capped. BP, the company that owned the well, worked to contain and clean up the spill. BP is still committed to Gulf restoration and has spent billions of dollars on clean-up and victim compensation.
Oil Companies Work to Prevent Accidents
Accidents happen on land, too. The largest accidental oil spill in history, the Lakeview Gusher, occurred on land in California in 1910. Unsafe drilling practices and less stringent regulations made for an ecological disaster. Today, companies undertaking land-based drilling, like hydraulic fracturing on a Bakken formation, work harder to preserve the environment.
Oil companies sometimes put profit above many other concerns. After all, oil companies are businesses, and businesses exist to make money. Irresponsible drilling practices that result in large spills or ecological damages are bad for business. They can turn public opinion against the companies and make them financially liable for damages. This will hurt profits and may be part of why many companies are dedicated to protecting the environment.
Due to the financial issues a spill can cause, oil companies work to drill responsibly and contain any potentially dangerous spills. Their motives may be more money-green than environment-green, but as long as they maintain a concerted effort to prevent accidents and clean them up should they occur, those motives are fine.