Engineers Should Contribute to Renewable Energy Policies,
Consider Ethical Implications
LUBBOCK, TEXAS (17 April 2009) -- Engineers working in renewable energy fields should participate in public policymaking and consider ethical implications, the opening speaker at the IEEE Green Technology Conference said today.
“Engineers have a special role to play with regard to the ethical development of renewable energy technology and associated public policies,” said Dr. William Marcy, P.E., executive director of the Murdough Center for Engineering Professionalism at Texas Tech University.
The goal of the Murdough Center (www.murdough.ttu.edu) is “to increase the awareness of the professional and ethical obligations and responsibilities entrusted to individuals who practice engineering.” The center also operates the National Institute for Engineering Ethics and the Applied Ethics Case of the Month Program.
As the push for renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, among others) advances, Marcy thinks it’s important for engineers to use their technical expertise to help lawmakers devise new energy policies.
“The role of public policy in promoting and enabling green technologies may turn out to be as important as the innovations themselves,” he said.
Marcy said ethical issues can arise from developing renewable energy technologies and from implementing the policies designed to promote their use.
“Ethics has a role to play in the design, engineering and implementation of complex technical systems and, more importantly, the associated public policies,” he said.
When engineers assist in formulating public policy, they should take into account the many possible outcomes that could arise from a specific policy. This helps to prevent unforeseen or unintended consequences.
Marcy cited the example of producing ethanol from corn. Because corn serves as the basis for much of the U.S. food supply, as demand for corn as energy increased, the cost of food rose. This unintended result is a hardship for low-income families.
“To make an ethical case for a new renewable energy policy one must take into account not only the consequences of actions individuals may take,” Marcy said, “but also the consequences that will accrue to society on a local, regional, national and global level.”
The inaugural IEEE Green Technology Conference, which began yesterday with a wind energy tutorial, is sponsored by IEEE Region 5, the IEEE South Plains Section, Texas Tech University and IEEE-USA. It is being held in conjunction with the annual IEEE Region 5 Meeting, which begins Saturday.
The 2010 IEEE Green Technology Conference will be in Grapevine, Texas, 15-16 April. Technical papers, workshops, panels and tutorial submissions can be sent to Edward L. Safford, technical program chair, at email@example.com.
IEEE-USA advances the public good and promotes the careers and public policy interests of more than 210,000 engineers, scientists and allied professionals who are U.S. members of IEEE. IEEE-USA is part of IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional society with 375,000 members in 160 countries. See http://www.ieeeusa.org.
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