1989: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 87
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. In other textbooks, environmental ethics is considered an ethical dilemma.
Environmental ethics is the study of moral issues concerning the environ-
ment. Environmental ethics is not defined as a separate ethical dilemma in
this text because it is considered a subset of “protection of public safety.”
Provide reasons for this subclassification.
2. As noted in the text, TAPS production for many years was 1.8 million
barrels per day. In recent years, this has dropped to only 1 million barrels
per day. The need for increased production to satisfy U.S. demand
recently convinced the majority in the Senate in 2005 to approve a
national budget that would open a 1.5 million acre coastal region of the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. It is estimated that 7.5 billion
barrels may be recoverable, with production beginning to flow about
a decade after drilling begins (Kolbert, 2005). Meanwhile, this land
near the North Slope oil fields is the calving ground for more than
100,000 caribou of the Porcupine herd (Banerjee, 2003). Further, if the
fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks that were implemented
by Jimmy Carter in 1979 had continued through 1986 (Ronald Reagan
relaxed the standards in 1986), the United States would no longer have
needed Persian Gulf oil after 1986 (Kennedy, 2004). Conduct a cost-
benefit analysis regarding whether drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge should occur.
3. Read Chapter 11 of Collapse, a book by Jared Diamond (Diamond, 2005).
Diamond is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and Pulitzer Prize winner
for his previous book, Guns, Germs, and Steel. In this chapter, Diamond
details the divergent economic fates of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,
two countries that share the same island land mass in the Caribbean.What
are principal reasons that Diamond believes Haiti, which was originally
more prosperous than the Dominican Republic, is now a poorer country?
What lessons does this chapter have for Alaskan state officials?
4. As this textbook goes to press in 2005, Enron court cases continue to
make headlines and Congress must again decide whether to pass an
energy bill that includes a waiver that would protect oil companies from
all methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) liability lawsuits filed since
September 2003. This additive has been used in gasoline since 1990 as
an oxygen enhancer to reduce auto carbon monoxide emissions. In its
2003 product safety bulletin, Lyondell Chemical, the largest MTBE
manufacturer, stated that even less than one part per billion imparted a
“distasteful odor and taste” to groundwater that could make it “unsuit-
able for consumption.” MTBE has been detected in 1861 water systems
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88 Engineering Ethics: An Industrial Perspective
in 29 states, serving more than 45 million Americans (Barrionuevo,
2005). Is there a difference in ethics between the energy industry and
other industries? Discuss.
5. Because MTBE dissolves easily in water and does not readily cling to
soil, it contaminates groundwater supplies more readily than other
gasoline components. An Exxon chemical engineer wrote the first of
several internal memos in 1984, warning of MTBE’s “ground water
incident costs and adverse public exposure” (Mickelson, 1984). But
because MTBE is a byproduct of gasoline refining and is readily
available, the oil industry chose to use MTBE as an oxygenate when
Congress mandated in 1990 that some form of oxygenate be added to
gasoline (Barrionuevo, 2005). Should the manufacturers of MTBE be
liable for MTBE cleanup costs?
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