Jennifer Bray English 1302. 481



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Jennifer Bray

English 1302.481

Mar 27, 2011

Rhetorical Analysis of BP oil spill

On April 20, 2010, a huge man-made disaster was created by BP Oil Company and Transocean Ltd. in Gulf of Mexico. Accompanied by a loud noise, Tens of thousands gallon of crude oil swarmed into Gulf of Mexico from an undersea little hole. According to scientists and engineers of the National Incident Command’s Flow Rate Technical Group and a team of Department of Energy, the Leakage of oil is 2,604,000 gallons per day and the total volume spilled at about 205.8 million gallons (“BP”). This horrific disaster hit entire south coast of United States, also the United States was shocked by this disaster. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico impacted multiple aspects of society in the United States and caused many social groups to address the public attempts to clarify their positions and persuade people to support their preferred solutions to this issue

The BP oil spill was considered as the most serious offshore oil spill in the entire history of United States. Renee Montagne, the host of NPR news, points out that “The federal government now estimates this is the worst spill in U.S. history, far surpassing the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989”(DAVID). As everyone knows, the loss of oil spill was immeasurable, along with increase of oil leak; various terrible influences will emerged in the affected area. According to one article of Congressional Digest, the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989 caused a great stir in society of the United Stated, and inflicts heavy losses on ecological environment and economic growth of United States (“Impact”). The tragedy had once again repeated, all quarters of society of the United States focused on this issue.

This national disaster created pain and anxiety for people of the United States, as the highest authority in the country and key player of this issue, the federal government of the United States had taken on great responsibility. When the relevant responsible persons tried their best to seal the oil leaking well permanently, and the Gulf of Mexico was suffering under this disaster, the President Obama delivered an important address to the nation for the issue of BP oil spill on June 15, 2010. According to the Obama’s Address to the Nation on the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this address not only clarified obligation of American federal government and responsible parties in this issue, but also presented solutions and suggestions to persuade the public to believe that The United States will pull through this disaster and eliminate the threaten of this kind of disaster (Obama1-5).

When the plagues were coming, the government of the United States needed to give faith of recovering and assurances of helping to the public. As a result, the President Obama logically address to the nation to reassure the public. He used a lot rhetorical strategies to make his address more powerful. The key words in his address are the responsibilities and solutions. According his address, the President Obama states that “That's why just after the rig sank, I assembled a team of our Nation's best scientists and engineers to tackle this challenge, a team led by Dr. Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and our Nation's Secretary of Energy”(Obama 1). From this sentence, we can see that the President Obama appeals based on his character of this nation, he is the highest commander of this country during the emergency of nation, and he have absolute power to command everyone of the United States to help their nation. So the public will believe that he can use his ability to help people who suffer under this disaster to a maximum.

He also used the method of logos to add credibility to his address; he mentioned that the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and the Nation's Secretary of Energy as the excellent team members were assembled to handle this issue, this team symbolized determination of federal government that solve this issue as soon as possible. The article, Nobel Prizes, notes that “The Nobel prizes function as the highest honor that scientists can receive in their field of expertise” (“Nobel”). As a result, the Nobel Prize- winning physicist as a factual claim gives faith to the public, people believe the reputable and competent scientists who can help them to pull through the crisis.

The emotional appeal was also used by the President Obama. The President Obama represented American federal government for using rhetorical strategies to formulate their argument in his address. When The President Obama use method of logos and ethos to pacify the public to believe the salvage operation of government in this issue, he also use method of pathos to persuade the people of United States to think deeply about this man- made disaster and find a way to keep this kind of man- made disaster away from the United States. The issue of BP oil spill was also related to energy resources security in the United States. The offshore drilling is a very important method to get oil, but the danger of this kind drilling is unpredictable. The BP oil spill set off alarm bells once again; the President Obama caught this point to push the people of the United States to seek the clean and secure energy. Obama states that

“We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now. Now is the moment for this generation to embark on a national mission to unleash America's innovation and seize control of our own destiny” (Obama 3).

The emotional appeal was used excellently; the President Obama mentions the future and children in his address, and indicates that threaten of unstable energy systems will harm our children and future. The children are the most important foundation and represented the future for a nation. Obama perfectly matches the two things to impact the audience. American absolutely wants their government who can give their children a perfect future. As a result, this emotional impact will help the President Obama obtain support of the public for his plan. In addition, Obama said “control of our own destiny” (Obama 3). He want to provoke the audience’s desire of battle to beat threaten of medieval energy to protect environment and future of the United States. Klare, Michael T, author of Nation Magazine, point out that “the U.S. needs a new energy policy that de-emphasizes fossil fuels and exploits alternatives that do not harm the environment” (11-15). So, the President Obama used the issue of BP oil spill to persuade people of United States to work on this plan.

Every method of rhetorical strategies was superiorly appealed in this address of the President Obama, but the emotional appeal was more powerful than others to impress audiences. The rhetorical strategies of this address help Obama to persuade the public more effective and reduce the pressure of government, thus, to regain credibility with the public.

For this world-shaking issue, the federal government of the United States was not the only social groups to be involved. The state government also focused on this issue, especially for the states that were near the Gulf of Mexico. These Gulf States was impacted directly and have to act more than other states, the government of Gulf States also have to experience more pressure on the financial budget of rescue effort, recovery work and economic assistance of affected area. Budget pressures have made them to seek more help from the nation, but the damage of local economic system was more terrible. As the Richard J. Dolesh, National Recreation & Park Association chief of public policy, said that “the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill causes economic disruption to the Gulf state, companies that are responsible for the oil spill should pay for the restoration and damages based on a law under the Oil Pollution Control Act of 1990”(40). Also, according to the special polity of the United States, state has more independence. As a result, when a huge disaster was coming, the power and financial resources of only one state is inappreciable.

As a member of Gulf States, the Texas State was the less affected state during this huge disaster, but it did not means that State of Texas will escape from this disaster. On May 3, 2010, a committee of five members which is called the Gulf States Coalition was established by Attorney Generals of Gulf States in order to fight this disaster more effectively (“Texas”). Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General, stated that

“Our top focus is ensuring that BP makes good on its promise to fully compensate individuals, coastal businesses and taxpayers for any expenses incurred during the clean-up effort. We will work with state and local officials to ensure that BP reimburses any expenditure of taxpayer resources and will focus on ensuring that BP’s compensation process is not overly burdensome or bureaucratic for coastal residents and small businesses.”(“Texas”).

As the Texas attorney General, Greg Abbott can represent the government of Texas. He focused on the compensation of BP Company for individuals of Gulf States; the logical appeal was used in his proclamation, because the compensation of BP is a key to appease the people who are suffered under this disaster, and it also can help the Gulf States to reduce the pressure from money. In addition, he mentioned that the Gulf States Coalition will ensure the compensation process is not burdensome or bureaucratic (“Texas”). He used logical appeal to highlight the power of his team that his team will able to help sufferer effectively in order to persuade people to believe and support them. State government focused on financial condition and supply personal assistance more than other social group, this is why the state government will formulated their argument in this way.

The disaster of BP oil spill is not only harmed the people who live near the Gulf of Mexico, it also harmed the environment and animal of this area deeply. In fact, the damage of environment is incredible. According to the article, WHAT THE SPILL WILL KILL, the crude oil will destroy the bottom of food chain and deeply harm most animal in ocean, and the seabird will be also severely harmed, especially for their plumes (Begley 24-28). The environmental resources of the United States was also very important for this nation, so many agency and organization of environment focused on this issue and delivered many types of message to the public.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal agency who plays a very important role in the issue of BP oil spill. As a particular governmental group in the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has responsibility to service the environment of United States, and focus on environmental protection. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stands for the environment of United States and the creatural health. When the BP Company created this huge disaster to the United States, they appeared in the first time to try their best to save the environment of United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used many methods to communicate their message to the public, the visual form was clearly to stand for their position, and addressed to the public.

The rhetoric of visual form of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that I find online and reflect their perspective of this issue. In the picture, there is a seabird in the middle. We can see the dirty oil on the plumes of this bird, and few works use many types of clean equipment to help this bird to remove the oil (Thompson). This bird is a pelican, the color of the plumes should be white, but this bird is grayish Black. The color of uniform of those works was blue. The inanimate grayish Black contrasted against lively blue, those two colors perfectly explain the situation of those oiled seabird and the responsibility of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, water pipe in this picture symbolized a lifeline to keep the death away. This pelican seemed to given the tragic howl to the public and also the people will have sympathy for this poor seabird (Thompson). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service want to use this poor bird as a pictorial emotional appeal to evoke the intense sense of fellow-feeling of the public, thus, more and more people will try to help those oiled seabird and damage environment of the United States.

As the biggest event in the 2010 for the people of United States, the group of media will pay highly attention to this issue of BP oil spill. Many people of those media groups will communicate their massage of BP oil spill through different form to the public. The interest and competition will push them to create more controversial topic that delivered to the public. Sometimes, the power of words is not enough, the visual form more powerfully and easily to provoke argument for the public to create more opinion to the government.

The picture I found in a website that perfectly shows the purpose of provoking argument. This picture is small size, but the left corner of this image is the president Obama, he is a great personage in the United States. When people look this picture, they will firstly pay attention to the president Obama. In addition, there is a dead oiled seabird is attractive. If people watch this picture, they absolutely want to find out what this bird mean. The black oiled dead bird lied in the beach, and the image of Obama was indifferent to this bird (Obama). What is the relation between the Obama and dead bird? The author try to say that animal have same right to live better as human, but man- made disaster harm those living being deeply. As we look the image of painful seabird appeal to our sense of shame. The poor seabird is harmed by the human and loses their home as well. The seabird seems to shout to us that we need to take responsibility for those innocent lives. When we look this image, we are shocked by the metaphor in this picture (Obama). The methods of rhetoric were lively emerging in the form of visual, and group of media can use it to complete their goal that extend the influence of particular issue of public.

In conclusion, the issue of BP oil spill is complicated and related to many aspects of society. The emotional appeal during the persuading process seemed to be having the most impact to the public in this issue, because the loss of this disaster was disastrous, people need to encourage in emotion. When the different social group was impacted by this issue, the reaction of each group was forceful. The public become a forum for every group to formulae their argument and use their rhetoric strategies to persuade the people to believe what they say and accomplish their goal in this issue.

Work Cited

"BP Oil Spill -- Not Over Yet. (Cover story)." Oil Spill Intelligence Report 33.33 (2010): 1-3. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.

Begley, Sharon, Ian Yarett, and Daniel Stone. "WHAT THE SPILL WILL KILL. (Cover story)." Newsweek 155.24 (2010): 24-28. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

DAVID, GREENE. "Gulf Oil Spill Now the Biggest In U.S. History." Morning Edition (NPR) (n.d.): Points of View Reference Center. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.

"Deepwater and Public Policy. (Cover story)." Parks & Recreation 45.11 (2010): 40-41. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.

"Impact of Oil Spills." Congressional Digest 89.6 (2010): 167-192. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 26 Mar. 2011.

"Nobel Prizes." Science in the Contemporary World: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Credo Reference. Web. 27 March 2011.

Obama, Barack H. "Address to the Nation on the Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico." Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (2010): 1-5. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 27 Mar. 2011.



Obama & The BP Oil Spill: Bookerista Views . N.d. bookerrising. bookerrising,
     n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. Klk,

"Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott Joins Gulf States Coalition to Protect Texas Resources Threatened by BP Oil Spill." Texas Attorney General. Texas Attorney General, 30 May 2010. Web. 28 Mar. 2011.



Thompson, Greg. An oil impacted brown pelican is cleaned at a Wildlife
     Rehabilitation center in Plaquemines Parish. N.d. The encyclopedia of
     earth. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2011

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