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Environmental Ethics

Volume 37, Issue 2, Summer 2015

Benjamin R. Jones, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Roman V. Sidortsov
Pages 145-168
DOI: 10.5840/enviroethics201537215

Making the Ethical and Philosophical Case for “Energy Justice”

A new conceptual framework, “energy justice,” provides a more comprehensive and, po­tentially, better way to assess and resolve energy-related dilemmas. This new framework of energy justice builds on four fundamental assumptions and consists of two key principles: a prohibitive principle which states that “energy systems must be designed and constructed in such a way that they do not unduly interfere with the ability of people to acquire those basic goods to which they are justly entitled,” and an affirmative principle which states that “if any of the basic goods to which people are justly entitled can only be secured by means of energy services, then in that case there is also a derivative entitlement to the energy services.” These two principles are premised on the notion that energy serves as a material prerequisite for many of the basic goods to which people are entitled. They also recognize that the externalities associated with energy systems often interfere with the enjoyment of such fundamental goods as security and welfare. They acknowledge that the structuring of energy systems has profound ramifications for human societies, providing historically unprecedented benefits for some, and taking from others the possibility of living a life of basic human dignity.