Oil: You’re Addicted and You Don’t Even Know It.


As you can see, oil dependency has been an issue for America for over 3 decades. Yet we continue to increase our consumption and dependency on oil every year. Just think how different our American lives would be without oil? People use and consume oil every day, yet rarely think about how important this natural resource is to our everyday lives. If America were to one day go without oil, all hell would break loose.

With this in mind, you need to understand what the future looks like as of now. China, a rising global power, is continuing to grow at an exponential rate. However, this growth demands oil to keep their economy functioning. Currently, America is the largest consumer of oil in the world. This position gives America purchasing power because we buy the most. However, if China is to surpass the US in the future, America loses much of its’ purchasing power to China. Now, we would still be able to get oil, but this oil prices would start sky rocketing. Even more importantly, oil is depleting fast. As I mentioned earlier, growing developed countries are starting to demand more oil. With this increase in competition of a diminishing resource, prices will once again, sky rocket.

Since our economy depends on oil to function, the rise in oil prices in the future is going to impact America exponentially if we keep our oil consuming habits.  Of the 6.7 billion barrels a year America consumes, 75% goes to our transportation sector. There lies the answer! We can find ways to reduce our consumption every day through transportation. Americans are in love with their cars more than any other nation. We have the lowest gas tax, drive the most, hell, we even invented the damn things. But our car culture has a price. We are currently seeing it now with the rising gas prices and depleting oil reserves. Wars are already being fought over this valuable resource. But we can change and I can show you how…

I Can’t Wait For the Future…

As I wake up, I roll over in my bed and see my beautiful wife lying in bed with our German shepherd between us.  I look up onto the ceiling and see the digital projection of the time, weather, news, photos. When my eyes meet the projection, a calm voice greets me with a “Good Morning Mr. Vallala” as I start to get out of bed noticing it is 0600 (US now use the 24 hour clock).  As I tiredly reply with a “Good Morning Sonny” the screen follows me and meets me at the bathroom mirror. I then click the schedule button to see what is on my agenda on this fine Monday morning while Sonny reminds me that I have to meet a client at 9:00 a.m and that it is my mother’s birthday today (which I completely forgot about).  Noticing I have a busy day ahead, I put on my all Nike running attire I laid out the night before and start running at 0615. When I arrive back home after my daily 3 mile run, I open my door to my dog, Walle, jumping on me and my wife watching TV on the see-through screen in front of the stove as she gets ready to for work and makes us both breakfast.

I then notice how I am running a little late when I look at the digital screen on the wall that continues to follow me as I walk back into my room. After my multiple shower-head shower that I typed in the temperature for, I start shaving while listening to Ira Glass podcast from the week before. When I walk into my closet, I turn to the mirror and tell Sonny to show me my black custom fit suit. Looking at myself in the mirror wearing the suit, I realize I am not feeling that particular suit today and simply swipe to the side with a hand gesture and see another “related” charcoal shirt that Sonny already had lined up before I asked. I easily chose the charcoal suit and had Sonny bring it to the front of the closet on the rotating rail.

Now 0715., I go into the kitchen and start eating my organic eggs and whole wheat toast with my wife as we talk about our schedule. Annoyed with the television noise, I simply say “Sonny Hide” to temporarily hide the television and screens on the fridge, over the stove and in the living room. I tell her about my big client meeting in an hour and a half and she tells me about how her new patient is feeling better with the new artificial liver transplant. After breakfast, I tell Sonny to start my fully electric Audi A8 and start walking to my garage. The garage door automatically opens when I enter the garage and I quickly have to stop Walle from running out the door to play with our neighbor dogs. I get into the driver seat of my car and tell it to start backing out.

As I check my emails on the windshield, the self-driving car starts pull out the garage and driveway on its own. I simply say, “Drive to work” and it shows me a navigation path to my destination on the screen in which I say “accept” and my car starts driving me there. I then tell Sonny to pull up my schedule and I start checking off completed tasks on my to-do list and he reminds me to call my mom now because I am busy for the rest of the day. I agree and Sonny starts calling her and she picks up and I see her face on the windshield of the car where my emails use to be. She tells me how she is doing great and loves traveling around the world. Once we hang up, I pull up my emails as I drive by the miles of protected wind mill farms that supply energy for the majority of North Carolina.

With little traffic due to the new efficient road system that allows cars to work together to plan paths based on traffic control, I arrive at work just 10 minutes after leaving my house. Saying goodbye to Sonny, my car parks itself as I walk into my office at 0820.  I then walk into my office on the 6th floor overlooking the city. I then pull up my company computer system and start preparing the marketing strategy that I prepared all last week for my client meeting. When my client arrives in the building my computer system notifies me and I meet him in the lobby. After a two hour meeting, he decides to hire me as his advertising consultant and I get pay raise.

Now 1630, I call my car on my phone and my car comes and picks me up. Tired from the long day, I stare out the window and notice all the moving advertisements on the billboards and buildings.  I tell Sonny to turn on the TV and I watch TV in my car on my way home. When I arrive home, my wife and I start looking up air fares to Europe. With almost everything completely wind and solar power, the flights were cheap and we planned for a two week anniversary trip to Rome. After watching the final season of our favorite HBO show, I tell Sonny to turn off the TV and go to bed at 2230.

(similiar idea)

Everyone in America Needs to watch this video

I don’t care if you read this blog or not, just watch the video. If you have done that, my goal is accomplished.

Everyone at some time or another has heard about the issue of wealth inequality in America. Constantly inn the news, in the papers, on the internet, the issue of equality in America floods our everyday lives. However, people still neglect to see the large issue at hand. People are too concerned about remaining loyal to their political parties and always skeptical about the data presented by the conflicting party because their data HAS to be skewed in some way. We need to find some way to address the inequality issue with unarguable facts separate from a distinct political part. Well my friends, we just did…

This 6 minute video emphasizes the ideal wealth distribution and the reality. With distinct graphs, images and video motions, this video presents FACTS. It puts into perspective how the wealth is really divided.  It shows that the top 1% has more of the country’s wealth that 9 out 10 people believe the top 20% should have in three different ways.  Facts like these are astounding and people need to see this. If people can see this video, they can see the problem with our current system. People do not understand the extent of the wealth distribution in America. Yes people have a ten minute debate at the dinner table, but they still have neglect to see the facts and only worry about winning the arguement. They need facts.  Watching this video  can reveal important details to everyone. Everyone needs to see this video because it shows the distribution of wealth in american in an easy to comprehend way.

“Are You Kidding Me? Lines

“The top 1% has more of the America’s wealth than 9 out 10 people believe the entire top 20% should have.”

“The Top 40% barely have any of the wealth… It’s hard to even see them on the chart”

“The Middle Class is barely distinguishable from the poor”

“The top 1%’s money stack stretches 10 times higher than we can show.”

“1% of America has 40% of allthe nation’s wealth”

“The bottom 80% only has 7% of the Nation’s wealth”

“Top 1% income has nearly tripled in the last thirty years”

“The 1% holds half the countries stocks, bonds and mutual funds”

“Do you really believe the CEO is working 380 times harder than their average earner in their company?”

“The average worker needs to work a month to earn what the average CEO makes in an hour”

BP’s Catastrophe

Deep water horizon catastrophe

Stop! Watch this video to see the results of BP’s awful decision making on the Deepwater Horizon.

                On the evening of April 20, 2010 a series of explosions rocked the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore oil-drilling rig operated by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. With gas unexpectedly rising in the Macondo well, flames shot 250 feet into the air as the blowout preventer designed to seal the well in case of emergency failed to function properly.  As workers crammed into lifeboats or jumped off the rig into the water, ships nearby were forced to come to aid. However, sadly, 11 people died that night while numerous others were injured (Roberto, 1).

This disaster became the largest oil spill in U.S. history. The spilling of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for three months caused catastrophic damage to both the US economy and the environment. As you can see in the video, the oil spill impacted the entire Gulf Coast. Hundreds of thousands of individuals and businesses lost their jobs, while hundreds thousands of marine animals and fish were killed (NC, 90).  The public soon turned to BP as responsible for the damage. Soon after, the National Commission investigation revealed that the blowout occurred because of oversights, risk factors and mistakes that combined to overthrow the safeguards meant to protect the rig in emergencies like this one (NC, 90). However, “most of the mistakes and oversights at Macondo can be traced back to a single overarching failure—the failure of management” (NC, 90).

Although BP contracts out much of the oil drilling process, they still remain responsible to manage the rigs operations. Specifically, as the operator, BP had the overall responsibility to promote a culture of safety on the rig.  However, throughout the drilling process BP ignored the experts they hired from Halliburton and Transocean to boost profit through cutting corners and costs. They disregarded common industry practice and merely fulfilled the minimum requirements. According to virtue ethics, BP’s cutting corners mentality holds them responsible for the incident. From the purchasing the Macondo well in 2008, BP’s decision making revolved around increasing profit rather than creating an organization that supports ethical behavior; as a result, BP caused the largest oil spill in US history.

The Macondo well blowout is not an isolated incident for BP. BP’s history is full of repeated disastrous work place occurrences. In 2003, a gas line ruptured on BP’s Forties Alpha platform in the North Sea and released methane throughout the area. Although BP got lucky that a spark did not ignite, they still admitted to breaking the law by allowing pipes to corrode and paid a 250,000 fine (NC, 219).  Then in 2005, an explosion occurred at BP Texas City refinery killing 15 people and injuring over 170 (Dickenson, 7).  Investigators later discovered that the Texas City management consistently ignored warning signs and did not take coercive action when signals of danger arose (NC, 221). Soon after in 2009, a major leak infiltrated BP’s Prudhoe Bay oil pipeline which became the largest oil spill on Alaska’s North Slope leaking over 200,000 gallons of oil (Roberto 6). In that same year, the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration fined BP $2.4 million due to safety violations at an Ohio refinery stating that “it is extremely disappointing that BP failed to learn the lessons of Texas City” (Roberto, 6).

Texas City Oil Refinery Explosion

Despite the numerous incidents, BP continued to foster an unsafe environment on the Deepwater Horizon rig.  A few weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blow out, a survey was taken on hundreds of employees concerning safety management and culture. This survey revealed the that 46% of the workers feared reporting unsafe conditions to management and 15% felt that they were understaffed (NC, 224).  Many crew members complained that the safety manual was “not written with the end user in mind” and the front line members are not always informed about the true hazards they faced (NC,224).

This lack of safety culture resulted mainly from BP caring more about profit than about the workers. In the investigation of the blowout, the national commission discovered that many of the mistakes and oversights were caused by BP’s emphasis on increasing production and cutting costs. For example, BP ” shaved $500,000 off its overhead costs by deploying a blowout preventer without a remote-control trigger-a fail-safe measure required in many countries” (Dickenson, 7). In addition, when BP decided which production casing to install in the well, BP chose a “long string” system that is known to be riskier but less expensive than other options. Compared to other oil drilling companies, BP uses this cheap well piping 35% of the time in their deep-water wells, which is much higher than their competitors. BP also made the decision to use only 6 original centralizers to stable the long string casing instead of the recommended 16 because it was cheaper and as the head BP engineer said, they will “probably be fine and [they] will get a good cement job” (Roberto, 9). Despite the industry standards, it is evident that BP believes that the safety of workers and the environment is less important than cutting cost on the production casing.

Furthermore, BP’s management ignored their guidelines that stated the cement needed to extent 1,000 feet above the reserve. Instead, BP directed Halliburton to extend the column only 500 feet above the hydrocarbon reserve. To make matters worse, BP chose to use a lighter type of cement that the company rarely uses. Halliburton warned BP that the cement job was “against [their] best interest”. However, BP decided to ignore the cement experts and proceed anyways because they were still within acceptable industry standards. Then, when they performed the negative pressure test to examine the reliability of the cement wall and casing, BP cut corners once again. To perform the test, BP displaced mud in the well and then pumped a “spacer” that consisted of leftover material into the well. Using this  unusual spacer allowed BP to easily dispose of hazardous material that has strict regulations if disposed on land. Once preparations were finished, they ran the negative pressure test and the results came back negative, which suggested a leak. However, BP deemed the test successful because the backup system seemed to function properly (Roberto, 13). After the negative pressure test, BP displaced the mud and spacer to officially cap the well. At 9:30 p.m., the Deepwater Horizon experienced the first explosion that caused the worst oil spill in US history.

Choosing profit over ethics, BP consistently put their employees and the environment in harm’s way. According to Virtue ethics, BP acted without integrity and chose an immoral path that led to the Macondo oil spill. BP could have chosen to spend a little extra money to ensure safety, yet it is apparent through their decisions that they chose to value money over human life. Looking through the virtue ethics approach, you can see the alternative options that BP overlooked.

The virtue ethics approach focuses on “the whole hearted acceptance of a certain range of considerations for action” (Rosalind). Specifically, virtue ethics considers a virtuous person to be a morally good or admirable person who acts right (Rosalind). However, it also takes the actors character, motivations and intentions into consideration. A virtuous individual or actor must intend to be a good person and try to better others and themself as moral agents through virtuous decision making (Trevino, 46). Therefore, a person can only be considered an “honest person” when they choose to tell the truth not because honesty is the best policy or because they might get caught in a lie; rather, an honest person tells the truth because to do otherwise would be dishonest and therefore, immoral (Rosalind).

Satellite image of Macondo oil spill

But who determines the virtues of a person or organization? One way virtue ethics answers this question is through the actor’s relevant moral community: a community that holds you to the highest ethical standard and supports your intention to be a virtuous person (Trevino, 47). Therefore when analyzing a decision, one must think about the community the decision maker operates in. In BP’s case, we can look at BP’s contractors and the other oil drilling companies in the industry to analyze BP decisions through virtue ethics.

First, the virtue ethics approach views BP’s decision to choose the cheaper long string system as ignoring the virtue of loyalty. As the operator, BP needed to be loyal to their employees and protect their lives at all costs. Knowing the riskiness and unfamiliar geology of the Macondo well, “the long string casing greatly increased the difficult of securing a stable cement job, which was the direct cause of the blow out” (NC, 115). According to virtue ethics, BP would have chosen the liner cement job, a more complex and secure casing, because doing otherwise would be immoral because BP is not being loyal. In addition, looking at BP’s relevant moral community, other large oil companies used the long string design much less frequently than BP. BP used the long string casing about 35% in its Deepwater wells while Shell used 8% and Chevron used it about 15%. As you can see, BP failed to meet the industry standards through consistently using the riskier casing; as a result, it was just a matter of time before BP caused an incident like the Macondo oil spill.

Secondly, virtue ethics views BP choosing profit over ethics when they ignored the experts and used less of a lighter weight cement for capping. Haliburton, BP’s cement expert, warned BP and admitted later that BP specifications were “not consistent with industry standards; however, they were within acceptable standards” (Roberto, 9). Here, BP’s contractor reveals how BP chose to not live up to their relative moral community; as a result, BP’s safety culture allowed mistakes and oversights on details that allowed the Deepwater crisis to occur.  If BP would have followed the virtue ethics approach, BP would have listened to their experts and followed other oil companies that practice ethical decision making, even if it costs more.

Thirdly, BP ignoring the negative pressure test’s warning signs of a leak directly conflicts with virtue ethics. Virtue ethics requires BP to listen to the warning sign despite the delay in production it may cause. BP needed to investigate whether there was a leak because that is what an ethical company would do. If they would have acted in accordance with virtue ethics, they would have noticed a malfunction in the casing and prevented the oil spill. Instead, BP ignored the warning signs and depended to solely depend on the kill line if something went wrong; as a result, BP once again overlooked malfunctions that allowed the oil spill to occur.

Overall, BP’s lack of a safety culture resulted from their decisions to ignore the virtues that oil companies are expected to uphold. Other oil drilling companies like Shell and Exon make a substantial profit while also adhering to appropriate guidelines and industry standards that protect the environment and employees. Although Shell and Exon have experienced oil spills in the past, they have  improved their safety regulations and come nowhere close to the number or extent of the catastrophes BP experienced.  Since 2007, BP has received over 760 citations for safety violations, while the rest of the oil industry combined has received a total of one (Dickenson, 2010). This negligent attitude towards safety resembles their lack of integrity in decision making. The only way BP can change their problematic safety culture is through adopting the mindset of virtue ethics that forces them to start doing what is right: prioritizing employee safety and environmental risks. Until then, BP management will continue to make decisions based on cost that result in incidents like the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe.

Deepwater Horizon sinking

Works Cited

Dickinson, Tim. The Spill, The Scandal and the President. Rolling Stone. June 21,2010. <http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-spill-the-scandal-and-the-president-20100608>.

Hursthouse, Rosalind, “Virtue Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/ethics-virtue/&gt;.

National Commission. Deep water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling. January, 2011.<http://www.oilspillcommission.gov/final-report>.

Robert, Michael. BP and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. Ontario: Canada, 2011.

Trevino, Linda, and Katherine Nelson. Managing Business ethics: Straight Talk about How To Do It Right. 5th. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2010. Print.

Cellphones: Our distracting dependency

Nowadays, many parents give their children phones at the age of 10. My father refused to give me a phone till I turned 14 because that is when I started wanting to be more independent by going to the movies, mall, friend’s house, etc. all by myself. However, now you can see kids texting, talking on the phone for hours and checking their facebook constantly throughout the day. You can even see business men/women, teenagers and even older people talking on the phone everywhere. People constantly are attached to their phone to deliver messages to people everywhere. As a matter of fact, mostly everybody depends on it.

People never realize the benefit of cellphones. Just over 50 years ago, people could not instantly contact another person at will. They had to use some land line or mailing service. This may not seem like much of a change, but think about how different your life would be without cellphones. How are you going to contact your parents or significant other when you get into an accident on the road? How are you going to contact the person who forgot to pick you up at the airport? How are people going to contact you when you are at the gym, studying, locker room, doctor, work or wherever?

This past summer I was staying in Lewisburg and my phone broke. I couldn’t get a new one for four days. The first day was kind of relieving, but after, I was lost. I couldn’t call my friends, parents, girlfriend, boss or anyone when I needed them. I was literally stranded if I was not with someone. I couldn’t even access a landline in the fraternity house because there wasn’t one. Then, even if I could, I didn’t know anyone’s number because they were all saved on my phone. I was literally left without a means to communicate with almost anyone. Luckily, I knew my parents number and could talk to them with my friend’s phones.

Now, what if the whole world suddenly lost the ability to use all cellphones? People wouldn’t have friend’s cell phones to use like it did. People’s world would dramatically change. For the first few weeks, many people wouldn’t even have land phones. That means that you would not even be able to contact them. Even for the people who do have land phones, people could only call them with another land phone.. This would drastically change all of our lives. Business men and women couldn’t instantly contact clients or suppliers. Parents could contact kids to see how they are doing or where they are at. Friends couldn’t always talk to another friend at will. People would be forced to memorize numbers and names. They would be forced to actually READ in waiting rooms instead of play games or catch up on facebook on their phones. People would be forced to actually commit to their word more and not be able to back out without screwing another person over because they couldn’t contact them last minute. People wouldn’t be able to contact 911 as easily. There are endless parts of our lives that we would have to change. The beginning stages would be extremely hard to get use too.

However, people would eventually adapt. It would then become the norm and people would be like “ah remember the days we could just call our friends in the car.” However, adapting would not come easy. Our societial social structure would change. People wouldn’t be able to contact someone on their personal phone. They would have to call their landline and hope their home. This would cause people to socialize more with people who live closer and are easier to contact. They would naturally seek out people who are easy to contact because it is the most reliable option. People would need to be less dependent on instant data, and more dependent on people’s word. You cannot instantly tell someone that “you can’t make it” or “you’re running late.”  Overall, it would be more like the 50’s when people were close with neighbors and kids played with neighbors in the yard (but now it would probably be an x-box).

Overall, life without cell phones would completely change. Just think how life without ALL phones would change. It would be catastrophic. But, the good aspect about just cell phones disappearing is that people would be forced to be in the present. They would probably start seeing the world in a different way. People would be less distracted with all the current data everyone is bothered with now.

Teaching Students Sustainability

Every day we hear about how the climate is changing. We hear how CO2 emissions and our fossil fuel dependence continue to rise every day. Not only the environment, but hearing about third world countries suffering has become a norm. The worst thing is that people do not realize that we can change the way we live and do business. We just need educated people to take a stand and make a difference.

In the curriculum seminar, the four professors not only explained what sustainability courses and majors are available but why they are necessary. I think one of the coolest aspects of the sustainability curriculum is that it is completely interdisciplinary.  With engineers, management, and humanities all including sustainability, I believe students obtain the opportunity to see the world differently. But the most important aspects of offering a sustainability curriculum is that allows students to have a chance to understand the demand for sustainability all over the world.

The professor’s speech that caught my attention the most was Tammy Hiller’s sustainability management curriculum. Instead of just discussing what the classes are and what they offer students, she explained why sustainability is essential to our society today and in the future. The part that stood out to me was that she acknowledged that a lot of businesses ignore ethics and focus only on the bottom lime However, Hiller emphasized how many companies are shifting and starting to focus on sustainable operations because it is the ethical thing to do, not just because it increases profit. But even if it is profit driven, it is still a step in the right direction. This really impressed me because I think she is being realistic. Many people view an act as ethical only when there is sacrifice involved. In reality, the end result of the ethical action is still good, it is just that the person or organization had an additional incentive to choose to act unethically. The additional incentive does not eradicate the righteousness of the act, it just facilitates the decision process.

After hearing Tammy Hiller discuss the management curriculum and how it can help change the way students see the world, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “But what job can you get with a sustainability management major?” As a result, when the Q and A opportunity came up I was the first to raise my hand. After asking Tammy, I was really surprised by her answer. She said that a sustainability management major would be able to get any job like the others. The advantage would be that they would think differently and have a higher demand to go into a sustainability department of a business. She further explained that the businesses all over the world are implementing “sustainability departments” because they know the future demands it. With this in mind, she explained that sustainability major would have the advantage of an education that emphasis sustainability practices.  In addition, she explained this major gives students the opportunity to work for large non-profit or NGO organization to gain insight and experience in a particular sustainability field. Then, if they do not like the operations or want to become involved in something else, they could start their own company and make a difference in the world in the way they want to.