Towards a New Energy Ethics: Reflections from the US oil and gas industry

Mette High

At a time when the global consumption of energy is rising at an astonishing rate, energy producers are relying on increasingly innovative ways of harvesting energy from fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable resources. As a necessary but precious component for living, the energy that is produced, distributed and consumed raises fundamental questions about what we consider to be right or good. How would we like to sustain human and other life? Introducing the conference theme, this presentation will propose a line of enquiry that focuses not just on the energy source, but will return attention to human actors. Drawing on current research among oil and gas company workers in the US, I suggest a move away from the limitations of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) frameworks that are commonly applied. We need to have an analytical approach to energy ethics that can exist outside the corporate value regimes of ‘responsible business’ and ‘corporate conscience’. This is because not all energy actors move within or share the values of these corporate domains. Recognizing ethical sensibility as part of the human condition, I propose to think of energy ethics in capacious ways that can encompass the views of any energy actor, including subcontractors and executives who work for one of the world’s largest drilling companies.