The environmental impact of petroleum is often negative because it is toxic to almost all forms of life and its extraction fuels climate change. Oil spills are the most common and most destructive form of pollution stemming from the oil industry. The term is usually applied to marine oil spills, where oil is released into the ocean or coastal waters, but spills may also occur on land. Oil spills may be due to releases of crude oil from tankers, offshore platforms, drilling rigs and wells, as well as spills of refined petroleum products (such as gasoline, diesel) and their by-products, heavier fuels used by large ships such as bunker fuel, or the spill of any oily refuse or waste oil.
Oil spills can have disastrous consequences for society; economically, environmentally, and socially. As a result, oil spill accidents have initiated intense media attention and political uproar, bringing many together in a political struggle concerning government response to oil spills and what actions can best prevent them from happening. Despite substantial national and international policy improvements on preventing oil spills adopted in recent decades, large oil spills keep occurring.