Edited by Hugh Dyer and Maria Julia Trombetta
Chapter 20: Ethical dimensions of renewable energy
Our sense of insecurity with respect to energy is enough to warrant consideration of how relative energy security might be obtained, yet the most obvious source of insecurity is our collective failure to plan adequately for inevitable changes, which will be forced upon us sooner or later. On the assumption that justice and equity must underwrite the feasibility of any energy strategies, we need an ethical framework for energy which includes as a central concern the lack of human security in respect of the allocation of limited resources. For the sake of our common humanity, and for posterity, there appears to be a clear moral imperative for pursuing renewable sources of energy. At the same time, political and economic trade-offs suggest this has not yet been taken seriously. It seems clear enough that the pursuit of any meaningful energy security policy will require anticipation of future post-carbon scenarios. This requires a perspective on ‘the age of petroleum’ as only a recent and relatively short-run phenomenon in the long run of human energy supply (up to the late 19th century provided by biomass and animate labour, and now in the 21st century increasingly by renewables). The alternatives to fossil fuels clearly exist, though it ‘will take a new industrial revolution’ (Scheer 2002) or an ‘energy revolution’ (Geller 2002).
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