To Frack or not to Frack? Discuss how the issue brings different ethical systems into conflict.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The ethical implications of investing in shale gas and shale extraction techniques, or Fracking, is largely dependent on what is valued over all else.  For example, the libertarian would value freedom from external bother and disruption over everything else. In this light, fracking should be embraced because it represents something that people want to do, and does not directly interfere with another person's ability to do what they want to do.  The libertarian values individual freedom to act.  In this light, government regulations on the process of fracking cannot be accepted.  The environmental arguments does not justify the intervention into the realm of individual freedom because these would be seen as operating in the hypothetical, whereas taking away freedom of action is absolute.  In the measurable intervention from an external authority, libertarianism has grounds for embracing fracking.  Precaution and fear are not justifications for intrusion on individual freedom.

The utilitarian approach would be geared upon whether or not fracking can provide for the greatest amount of good for the greatest number.  The utilitarian would argue that the development of a new technology to bring energy to more people would justify the development of shale gas technology.  The utilitarian might argue that while there might be some individual challenges present, such precaution does not deny the fact that more people would benefit from shale gas.  More people would benefit from an energy point of view as well as the economics generated from it.  In this condition, utilitarianism would embrace the pursuit of fracking.

The environmental ethical position would reject fracking.  Deep environmental ethics argues that human beings have a responsibility to protect the environment.  In its placement on protection of environmental awareness above all, fracking's risk to the environment would be rejected on face value.  Regardless of issues of freedom or greater good to greater number, the reality of harming the environment and its potential risk for doing so would be grounds for rejection on the part of the environmental ethicist.  

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