Oil industry-ethical issues

Contents In recent decades, the discovery of petroleum change people’s lifestyle in a great extent. And the so-called ‘Black gold’ has become one of the world’s most lucrative industries. (Falola, T, Genova, A, 2005) But, even so, the oil industry almost impossible builds a positive image among the general public. As we know, there is no angel in oil companies, in most cases, oil companies’ behaviors often result in the negative impact to the human, society, and the environment.

The purpose of my report is to focus on three oil companies- ExxonMobil Oil Corporation, French Total Oil Company and Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company, and then compare them by using some examples to illustrate the unethical behaviors of the three companies.

1. ExxonMobil Exxon Mobil Oil Corporation is an American multinational oil and gas corporation. (http://en.wikipedia.org)

2.1. Environment destruction In July 2011, an Exxon pipeline beneath the riverbed ruptured, it resulted as many as 750 to 1,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River, and forced the temporary evacuation of nearby residents. (http://www.csmonitor.com) This incident seriously damaged the ecological environment of Yellowstone River, and harmed the farmland and forest of the river area. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk)

2.2. Animal suffering There is another spill example relate to the animal suffering is the Exxon Valdez oil spill, it happened in 1989, an oil tanker which named Exxon Valdez bound for California struck the Prince William Sound’s reef , and then there were around 11 million gallons crude oil were spilled. (http://www.mcspotlight.org) What is worse, as many as 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, at least 12 river otters, 300 harbor seals, 247 Bald Eagles, and 22 orcas were destroyed. (http://en.wikipedia.org)

However, after the incident, Exxon unconcerned about it, the company neither investigated the cause of the accident thoroughly, also did not take effective measures to clean up the oil leakage, it resulted in the worse situation and expanded the pollution area. (http://wenku.baidu.com) It is really a horrible disaster for animals.

2. Total Total Oil Company is a French multinational oil company and one of the six "Supermajor" oil companies in the world. (http://en.wikipedia.org)

3.3. Exploitation of workers In 2009, September, Earth Rights International (ERI) issued the research about the Yadana gas pipeline project of Total Oil Company. It condemned that the Burmese government recruited child soldiers and slave labour for this project. Also, the human rights workers collected the testimony from Burmese residents and former soldiers. They exposed the truth that Total Oil Company relied on Burmese soldiers’ support to force thousands of workers to do the heavy work, include carry wood and repair roads for building the Yadana gas pipeline. And the local villagers were forced to do various work routinely, carry foods and supplies. (http://www.independent.co.uk)

3.4. Supporting oppressive regimes The Nobel Peace Prize winner has claimed Total as "the biggest supporter of the military regime in Burma". (http://totaloutofburma.blogspot.com) In fact, Total Oil Company has contribute about 500 million dollars a year to the evil military regime in Burma, these funds were from its functioning of the Yadana gas pipeline, and the money were used for the corrupt regime to kill the students, monks, the ethnic minorities, and anyone who disclose for people’s rights and fair in Burma. (http://www.actionforourplanet.com/)

3. Shell Shell is a multinational oil company of Anglo Dutch origins. It is one of the largest oil companies in the world. (http://en.wikipedia.org)

4.5. Supporting oppressive regimes Ken Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian author and an environmental activist, his blood would eternal dye to the face of the Shell Oil Company. In late 1996, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other people were tried and executed for murder in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. (http://www.mcspotlight.org) The real reason of this slaughter for Saro-Wiwa was that he was leading the non-violent campaign for protesting the environmental destruction caused by the operations of the multinational oil Company, especially Shell. (http://en.wikipedia.org) This bloody event ruined the Shell’s credibility in a great extent.

4.6. Environment destruction In August 2011, an oil field owned by Shell had the oil spill in the North Sea area. British government said that Shell's North Sea oil pipeline spill resulted in a "significant" environmental disaster, about 1,300 barrels of crude oil spilled into the sea, leaking 216 tons of crude oil spills happen. (http://www.bbc.co.uk) This oil leak was a huge oceanic disaster, the spread of the crude oil bring out the pollution of the pure seawater, and the volatilization of poisonous gas would damage the human health, moreover, it exterminated the animals’ home. In a word, the terrible ecological influence from this incident cannot be estimated.

To sum up, some unethical behaviour in the above three oil companies in terms of the environment destruction, animal suffering, exploitation of workers, and support oppressive regimes were extremely damaged the ecological balance, caused the enormous loss of the social economy, and even destroyed the harmony between individuals.

Finally, it is noteworthy that the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company tops the list of the world’s most sustainable and ethical oil companies for the recent third year in many research reports. However, it cannot cover up the dark side of Shell Company. Because of the mess nature of the petroleum industry, and the seriousness of all these unethical incidents, the bad reputation of oil companies is difficult to be ameliorated, at least in the short term, it is hard to change the public views about oil companies. Therefore, for the sake of the ethical issue, I strongly advise you that do not invest in any of these three companies.


Falola, T, Genova, A. (2005) The politics of the global oil industry: an introduction. Greenwood Publishing Group.

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Brown, M. (2011). ExxonMobil oil spill into the Yellowstone River prompts evacuations. [online] Available at <http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2011/0703/ExxonMobil-oil-spill-into-the-Yellowstone-River-prompts-evacuations> (5/12/2011 22:07)

(2011). EXXON Yellowstone River pipeline leaked for twice as long as company admitted... as 40 landowners claim damage from spill. [online] Available at <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2011632/Exxon-oil-spill-Yellowstone-River-pipeline-leaked-twice-long-company-admitted.html> (5/12/2011 22:10)

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Total S.A. [online] Available at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_oil> (15/12/2011 18:23)

Sisodia, R, Buncombe, A. (2009). Burmese villagers 'forced to work on Total pipeline' [online] Available at <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/burmese-villagers-forced-to-work-on-total-pipeline-1771876.html> (10/12/2011 20:20)

Top-10-unethical-companies. [online] Available at <http://www.actionforourplanet.com/#/top-10-unethical-companies/4545796858> (8/12/2011 22:02)

(2011). Total out of Burma. [online] Available at <http://totaloutofburma.blogspot.com/> (13/12/2011 19:27)

Shell Oil Company. [online] Available at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_Oil_Company> (14/12/2011 13:22) Ken Saro-Wiwa. [online] Available at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Saro-Wiwa> (12/12/2011 23:33)

Kyhya, D. (2011). Shell spill: What happened and why it matters to Shell. [online] Available at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14576663> (15/12/2011 14:20)