Energy Ethics in Graduate Education and Public Policy: Enhancing the Conversation

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Center for Engineering, Ethics, and Society (CEES) and the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO) at Arizona State University (ASU) began the project on Energy Ethics in Science and Engineering Education in 2011 with funding from the National Science Foundation.[1] Focusing on technical and social feasibility as well as the ethical desirability of energy choices, the project has sponsored energy ethics research and developed ethics education programs for graduate students doing energy-related research. Project activities have addressed individual and collective responsibility and the ethical merits of energy choices by asking whether they are ethically permissible, recommended, required, or should be forbidden.

This capstone project workshop examined ethical, educational, and policy issues associated with various energy choices. The influence of energy development and use on social, built, and natural environments can hardly be overstated, and its implications are examined in the report America’s Energy Future.[2] Given the centrality of energy to America’s well-being, prosperity, and sustainability, energy ethics should be an important component of graduate education in energy research and of policymakers’ decision making. Energy researchers, social scientists, and ethicists have helped the project’s investigators explore methods to address these needs.

This workshop, intended for educators, policymakers, and representatives from professional societies, featured presentations and discussions to spur participants to think beyond the technical aspects of energy. Participants explored the benefits and challenges of efforts to include energy ethics in graduate education as well as the role of public policy and professional society leadership in encouraging graduate education on energy ethics.

An evening event on September 12, held with the “Future Tense” project (sponsored by, ASU, and the New America Foundation) highlighted the challenges posed by developing and pursuing alternative energy. The event explored issues of business ethics, economics, and policy.

[1] The NSF grants providing project support are #1032966 and #1033082. Material, findings, and opinions from activities supported by these grants are the responsibility of the authors and administrative entities, not the sponsor.

[2] National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and National Research Council. 2010. Overview and Summary, America’s Energy Future: Technology and Transformation. Washington: National Academies Press.


September 12, 2013 08:30 AM – September 13, 2013 12:30 PM
National Academy of Sciences Building, Lecture room
2101 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C.