Tag: Energy Industry

Energy Industry and Pollution

Energy Industry and Pollution

In the case of energy companies, the main ethical consideration is pollution. The famous suit against chemical companies has to be Erin Brockovich when her law firm went up against Pacific Gas & Electric. The movie definitely gave a bad reputation to energy companies nationwide, not just Pacific Gas & Electric.

The problem with companies that have pollutants is that there is a benefit to what they are doing, otherwise they wouldn’t exist. They were not built just to send pollutants into the air, they were built to product energy. It is this energy that we use every day to power our homes, businesses and traffic lights. Inevitably there will be an accident where pollutants get into the ground water or soil surrounding one of these plants. It is this risk/reward that we have deal with in our society.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is in place to protect us from mishaps from energy companies, and other companies that produce pollutants. There are very strict testing requirements facilities have to follow in order to operate. My father is the owner of Keystone Laboratories in Newton, IA. At Keystone Laboratories they see these kinds of mishaps all the time. Just a couple of years ago there was a big testing and cleanup effort on behalf of Pella Windows in Pella, IA. It’s not just big smoke stack facilities that can put pollutants into the ground.

Most of the dangers from energy facilities can be anticipated. The EPA knows what kind of chemicals to test for based on what the facility is producing. Each industry has its own set of toxins that is produced as by-product. If it is not caught at the facility, it will eventually get caught downstream. Perhaps it would get caught in well testing or from a farmer testing his soil.

There are many industries that face ethical issues, a similar one to the energy industry would be the chemical manufacturing industry. Just the word chemical had a negative connotation to it, so they are immediately facing an uphill battle. The experiments and tests the companies use to do research, often come into question. Many people are against testing on animals, which will always be an issue for chemical manufacturers.

The field of chemical engineering also includes biological and or chemical weapons, which is one of ultimate ethical questions we face on earth. War is already about killing, but most argue that there is humane killing. Biological weapons lead to suffering, and not necessarily death. The ethics of biological weapons is very similar to nuclear weapons, in which they can harm people far beyond the impact zone.

In the case of chemical weapons, it is impossible to completely govern them. There are international laws in place to prohibit the development, stockpiling, production and use of chemical weapons. The Iraq army was blamed in using chemical weapons during the gulf war. George Bush responded saying he would bomb Iraq with the same chemicals used.

As far as energy companies go, the best resource we have is quality testing by independent laboratories and regulation by the government.