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date: 06 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter helps explain why energy ethics has not prevailed, despite thousands of years of energy pollution–caused deaths. Section 1 outlines the harms created by fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Section 2 surveys environmental ethicists’ responses to these harms. Because energy harms are so obvious and well established, most environmental ethicists have not spent time arguing against them. Instead, as section 3 explains, most environmental ethics work on energy has been at the level of third-order analyses—responding to those who attempt to justify continued use of dirty energy, often by saying other power sources are unavailable or too expensive. Sections 4 through 8 provide brief third-order ethical analyses of five major second-order ethical excuses for not moving to clean, renewable energy: namely, the readiness, intermittency, expense, regulation, and intention excuses. The final section outlines how future energy-related ethics research is likely to develop. Because other chapters in this volume address climate this one does not do so.

Keywords: carbon, coal, electricity, nuclear energy, renewable energy, sustainable energy, solar energy

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