Friday, April 4, 2014

Chevron: Fracking Issue (2013)

Chevron Corp. logo

Chevron is a US company in the energy industry that specifically specializes in hydraulic fracturing. On its website, Chevron recognizes that growing demand, geopolitical pressures, and more remote and challenging resources continue to change the global energy landscape. They stress the idea that demand for energy resources is growing and will continue to grow. (Chevron). "The growing demand is fueled by a population that is predicted to increase 25 percent in the next 20 years, and the appetite for crude oil and other energy sources is growing dramatically, with worldwide energy consumption projected to increase by more than 40 percent by 2035," says Chevron. The company also has a large portion of its website dedicated to corporate social responsibility. Its aim is to improve reliability and safety and to prevent accidental releases or spills. Protecting people and the environment is one of the company’s core values, and these values are expressed through what the company refers to as "The Chevron Way." (Chevron). However, does Chevron always practice their expressed Chevron Way?
Licenses for hydraulic fracturing are required from local governments before the process can take place. Chevron has allegedly made a back-door deal with the Romanian government in Pungesti, a small village in the east of Romania, to allow fracking to take place, despite protests by the civilians. In an attempt to prevent fracking, villagers and activists broke the fences surrounding 22,000 acres where Chevron was starting to explore for shale gas. Chevron filed complaints against the villagers for the damage, despite their response stating, "The company is committed to building constructive and positive relationships with the communities where we operate and we will continue our dialogue with the public, local communities and authorities on our projects." (Worldwatch). Even though the protesters did cause damage, Chevron's actions are not completely consistent with its words. It must have been apparent that the fracking was not what the people wanted. Chevron and the government of Pungesti took action regardless. Below is an image of the fences being torn down.
The riot police responded to the protests violently. When night fell, the police exerted their force on the village, destroying tents of activists for "being filthy," and even entering houses, beating people, threatening them, or kidnapping them from their beds to bring them to the police station. (Revolution).
Pungesti usually appears to have nationalistic and patriotic values, but is supporting the US Chevron company in its attempts to acquire shale gas. Villagers fight against the two giants for their rights, and wish to protect their land and water resources. (Revolution). The capitalist war, of sorts, that seems to have taken place in Pungesti is a matter over what is right. The government and Chevron seem to be looking at the bigger picture, believing that the most good for the most people is created through allowing the shale to be extracted. Are they downplaying the importance of the health of the smaller number of individuals who live near fracking sites, along with declining the potential of the surrounding land? The key issue is that the most "good" being created is through the idea that wealth can be gained through acquiring the gas and oil, as it can be dispersed to fulfill the high demand for these resources. But, those who are victims of the process, although fewer in number than those who benefit, can face serious issues and possible health declines. The cost to providing benefits for many may be the social wellbeing of some.

Background: What is FrackingHydraulic fracturing, known as "fracking" for short, is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well, and it can create new pathways to release gas or can be used to extend existing channels. (BBC). Fracking is a complicated controversial issue, since it has both perceived benefits and risks. Drilling companies suggest that fracking is the answer to accessing trillions of cubic feet of shale gas from underneath parts of northern England. Below is a diagram as to how fracking is carried out. (BBC).

While it is true that fracking is an effective way to retrieve gas resources, the extensive use of fracking in the US has prompted environmental concerns to arise. Although fracking has revolutionized the energy industry, it allegedly can cause damage to the environment and to human life. (BBC). There are many points that support the opposing side to fracking. Chemicals used in the process may be carcinogenic, and can escape to contaminate groundwater around the site where fracking was completed. It also uses huge amounts of water that must be transported to the fracking site, which can become extremely costly, and uses a large amount of an important natural resource. Fracking allegedly can be the cause of some earthquake tremors, like a 1.5 and a 2.2 magnitude that were recorded near a fracking area in Blackpool during 2011.
Most individuals in the fracking industry claim that incidents of pollution caused by so called "fraccidents" are actually the results of poor practice. Professor Ernie Rutter from the University of Manchester says that "It [fracking] is always recognized as a potential hazard of a technique, but is unlikely to be felt by many people and is very unlikely to cause any damage." (BBC). Environmental campaigners say that fracking is simply distracting energy firms and governments from investing in renewable sources of energy, and encouraging continued reliance on fossil fuels. It can be detrimental to communities surrounding fracking sites if anything does go wrong. Those for fracking argue that it does more help than harm. It allows for drilling to hard-to-access resources of oil and gas, which are vital sources of energy that benefit many people. The industry suggests fracking of shale gas could contribute significantly to the UK's future energy needs. (BBC).

Stakeholders in the fracking case of Chevron in Pungesti are the villagers. They are the ones receiving brutality from protesting the fracking, and would be affected by any fraccident that occured as a result of Chevron's operations. The Chevron company is a stakeholder in a sense, for if an accident did occur while performing the risky technique, it would be up to the company to fix their mistakes - which is difficult considering most damage could be irreversible. Their reputation would decline and they could face lawsuits. The other entity in this case, the Pungesti Prime Minister, will receive benefits from the fracking. The only thing at stake for the government is its reputation with the people and with activists worldwide. The Chevron company and its operations in Pungesti are seen as ethical by some people, but unethical by others. It depends on the persons' views concerning ethical theory. There are several different ethical theories in which people live by. Each has its own set of values and beliefs.

John S. Watson, CEO of Chevron Corp.

The normative theory defines individualism as a collection of egoism, or selfishness, and right-based constraints. (Salazar). Milton Friedman, the founder of this theory, is known as one of the most profound thinkers of the 20th century. He believes profit should be the primary goal for a business. Everyone has the right to seek their own interests, but cannot not influence, judge, or interfere with others pursuing their own interests while doing so. Chevron is pursuing its own interests of accessing abundant resources of oil and gas. They are able to fulfill both their goal of having a large enough supply to meet the energy demand, and of making profits through their fracking operations. However, have they interfered with the interests of others in the process? Civilians of Pungesti might say that it is in their own interests to live long, healthy lives, and have access to clean water and air. Within Chevron's pursuits, the lives of others may be severly disrupted. An individualist would see that Chevron is doing what it has to do, but would also respect that the few civilians who could be harmed also have rights. The riot police and their retaliations, although technically under the control of the Pungesti government, which backs Chevron, have also strongly gotten in the way of civilians seeking their own interests. Villagers who have protested have been trying to have their voices heard and want their opinions and land to be respected. an Individualist would also not agree with the brutality enforced on the people while Chevron and the Romanian government tried to locate shale. A link to several videos and images about the police cruelty and Chevron is available HERE.

The theory of utilitarianism is the ethical tradition that directs people to make decisions based on the possible outcomes of their actions. (Salazar). Utilitarian values have helped shape today’s modern world, including political, economic, and public policies, and even business. It provided some of the framework for democratic policies and goes against the popular view of many “elite” citizens. The consequences of an action should result in the creating of the most good for the most people overall in order for the decision to be seen as ethical. A utilitarian would have to decide what would create the most “good” involving Chevron. Unlike the Individualistic view, which sides against Chevron's actions, Utilitarianism would support them. Because only those individuals located directly around fracking sites are possible candidates of detriment, a Utilitarian would side with the extreme number of people who would become better off, either financially or in terms of being energy-rich, from hydraulic fracturing. An argument to the Utilitarian view would be that reforms in the energy-extracting industry could lead to even more good for more people by reducing the number of fracking victims. Practicing safe and careful operations or switching to new forms of energy could have even better outcomes for more people than those being benefitted from Chevron's operations in Pungesti. With only the current issue at hand; Chevron using traditional fracking techniques, a Utilitarian would think the Chevron Company has acted ethically.
A video link to interesting alternative methods of energy can be viewed HERE.

Chevron propaganda image

Kantianism as an ethical theory differs from utilitarianism. “Unlike utilitarianism, it[Kantianism] does not ask us to maximize any particular value, it involves no complex calculations, and it does not treat groups of people as more or less valuable depending on the quantities of individuals or quality of experiences among them.” Kant’s formula of humanity states that one should treat people in a way that is valuable for one’s own sake. (Salazar). Under Kantianism, an individual should encourage and help others make the right decisions in a rational way. Respect is a major value under this theory. Kantian theory would also deem Chevron's actions as unethical. Utilitarianism essentially "rates" people by quantity, where the smaller groups are somehow less important than larger groups. Kantianism opposes this theory. A Kantian would not treat the victims that live around fracking sites as less important than the larger number of people who will use the natural resources from Pungesti. Chevron does not comply with the formula of humanity because it has tried to create value for itself while ignoring the rights of a small, but still important, group of individuals. It can be argued that Chevron has tried to help others make decisions "rationally," by producing a deal with the government that the most good would come from allowing the fracking to take place. It is not rational to hold innocent individuals at stake for one's own advancement, despite how many people the advancement may support. It was also not rational for extreme brutal force to be used against unarmed protesters, but it may be the Pungesti government more at fault for that than Chevron.

Virtue TheoryThe last ethical theory is virtue theory. Virtue theory revolves around the necessities to fulfilling a good life. The virtues of courage, honesty, temperance, and justice must be honored in order for a decision to be seen as ethical under this theory. Courage is the willingness to take a stand for the right ideas and actions, honesty is treating everyone fairly and being truthful, temperance is expected reasoning, and justice is being fair and providing quality products and ideas. (Salazar). Those who believe in the virtue theory would not believe Chevron is an ethical company. Courage was only practice by Chevron in the sense that fracking is a difficult process that must be done carefully. Aside from that fact, Chevron was not courageous. They did not stand up for the rights of individuals. They only pursued their own business goals and their visions of supplying a large scale of people. Chevron was also dishonest. It is not honest to make secretive, back-door deals for a process Chevron themselves promotes as "safe." The company knew it could not be honest about the fracking site in Pungesti because they knew that the citizens who live there would not like it. Instead of being forward, the process was carried out shadily. Even if the government again is more at fault for the dishonesty to the people than Chevron, Chevron still did not take a stand for what is right. The rights of many people were still disregarded by the company. The virtue of temperance was not fully complied with. Although Chevron reasoned that much good would come from the fracking, they did not reason that they are still putting people in danger. Justice was not achieved because fairness for all was not attained. Chevron did not try to make relationships better with the people of Pungesti, which goes against what the company claims to stand for in terms of corporate social responsibility. It is not "justice" that protesters should be disregarded, and especially not beaten.

Chevron is indeed trying to sustain the energy industry, but in unnecessary ways. Increases in technology and the emergence of alternatives to shale allow fracking companies the opportunity to reform. Chevron should be applauded for its "Do it safely or not at all," attitude (Chevron). but it is still putting innocent people at risk in its own pursuits. Although it is trying to meet the large demand for energy, fracking should not necessarily be the means to the end. Governments like that of Pungesti should also review their ideas of what it means to be ethical. Large governments and companies often take advantage of the "little guys" simply because it is easy. Results that seem to be positive overall still might be extremely negative for some, and I do not think it should be up to these powerful controllers to decide whether or not any single life is the price worth paying for some extra cash and a boom in the gas industry. It is up to governments to decide whether or not it is okay for companies like Chevron to search and drill for resources in an area. The bottom line is that changes should be made industry-wide concerning energy extraction methods and usage.


Chevron's Fracking Project - In the name of CSR? (n.d.). Worldwatch Institute. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from

Earthjustice: because the earth needs a good lawyer. (n.d.). Earthjustice. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from

Salazar, Heather. Business Ethics Lectures. WNEU. Spring 2014.

The Power of Human Energy. (n.d.). Chevron Corporation Home. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from

Villagers from Pungesti Stop Chevron Fracking Again, Riot Police Unleash Terror At Night in Retaliation. (n.d.). Retrieved April 1, 2014, from

What is fracking and why is it controversial?. (n.d.). BBC News. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from

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