Ethics of Energy
Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 , 3-4:30 PM, Topic: Ethics of Energy.
Presenters: Bill Boston & Neil Funnell.
Moderator: Dr. John Miller
Bill Boston Graduated from Oregon State Univ. 1958, after a tour with the US Navy, with a BS in Electrical Engineering. He worked in the electric power industry with the Federal Government, in the Northwest. Bill Relocated in 1961, to New York State and continued to work in the electric power industry. Then again relocated, in 1982, to Wisconsin, where he eventually retired in 1995 as President and COO of a large Midwest electric and gas utility. In 1998 Bill became involved with the Board of Directors of a startup company in New York City that became the deregulated wholesale electricity broker for the electric utilities in New York State. He Retired once again as Chairman of the Board, in 2006.
Neil Funnel graduated from Lehigh University in 1957, with a BS in engineering and from New York University with an MBA. He is a retired IBMer, working in the International Division as a financial analyst, product manager and business unit manager. At IBM corporate headquarters Neil was program director in University Relations, responsible for grants to colleges and universities in the U.S.
Bill started by asking the following questions:
Do we take our use of energy for granted? Particularly, do we as individual consumers of energy, assume that gas for our automobiles, natural gas for heating, and electricity for our daily use, will always be available, reliable and affordable?
Are we, as consumers who are totally dependent on a secure, reliable and affordable supply of electricity in order to maintain our current standard of living, being misled by the special lobbying interests and our government as they try to develop an "energy policy" dependent on "green energy"?
What are the alternatives to carbon based sources (Coal and natural gas) for generating secure, reliable and affordable electricity in the quantities that are sufficient to support our individual, commercial and industrial demands both today and in the future?
Does each generation have an obligation to develop and pass on an energy infrastructure and "energy policy" to succeeding generations that allows them the opportunity to enjoy an even better standard of living, as was done for our previous generations?
Bill gave a power point presentation with varied electric power generating statistics. The following are some figures for sources of US electricity generation: Coal 42%, Natural Gas 25%, Nuclear 19%, Hydropower 8%, Other Renewable 3%, Wind 3% (Oil is
Neil then presented the following regarding our natural gas policy: The U.S. has a significant comparative advantage over the rest of the world. Natural Gas Spot price:
Europe $12.00 Asia $20.00
Ethically speaking, what should America’s policy be regarding the export of natural gas to international markets?
Should the government freely license the exports? Who are the stake holders?
What policy is in the best interests of the U.S.? How do we make this decision?
Ethics is involved with the process of determining what is the right course of action when there are competing alternatives, with possible conflicting consequences. Ethical issues concerning energy look to the ethics of engineering: “Most U.S. codes of Ethics maintain that engineers should hold paramount, the safety, health and welfare of the public”.
Consider the following:
Hydraulic Fracturing, in central Pennsylvania, and upstate New York.
Off-shore Drilling, off the coasts of Florida, North and South Carolina.
Distribution of benefits to society: The investors, Corporations, the Public.
Technological Risk: (This is the key consideration). Some approaches to risk evaluation:
1.) Acceptability of risk compared to other risks, or other standards.
2.) Cost benefit analysis
3.) Acceptance, based on the consent of the people who bear the risk.
4.) Risk is acceptable if the exposure is part of an equitable social system that works to the advantage of the individual.
Vigorous audience participation followed:
You seem to indicate that only 3% of our electricity comes from sources such as
wind, solar, biofuels, etc, is that correct? And if so, why are we directing considerable funds toward such?
Bill said that is correct and he feels that it is due to pressures from special interest groups, such as the Sierra Club. He also pointed out the inefficiency and high costs of both wind, biofuels, and solar energy.
The ex-Brooklyn Union Gas Chairman present in our audience commented that, most environmental damage comes from tankers leaking fuel and not from offshore drilling rigs, implying that these rigs are historically very safe and even more so since the BP accident in the gulf.
Another participant commented that the free market system should be allowed to operate with natural gas distribution. One distributor has already been approved,and seven others are requesting approval. Let the free market take over.
Bill agreed. Whenever government steps in there are often too many controls. He doesn’t believe in subsidies to the energy producers.
We should be using more efficient nuclear sources for our energy, such as Thorium and Molten Salt Reactors, but so far this seems to be politically unpopular.
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