This was essentially the question I was asked by a researcher recently when I was asked to contribute to a debate on a Christian perspective on fracking. As you will know this is a very sensitive topic in the UK right now and I declined the invitation. However, as a Christian who works in the energy industry I thought it might be helpful to pass on to them some pointers for how I would frame a discussion on the environment, theology and energy policy…nice and simple then!
Below are some things that I think about in regards to parameters for making decisions about energy, environment and theology:
Firstly, there are three key facts that I would bear in mind for any discussion around energy policy at a national level. All large-scale energy production:
- Impacts the environment negatively
- Costs money
- Creates employment and wealth
The balance between these three factors differs by fuel type (e.g. hydrocarbon, nuclear, wind, marine, hydro, solar etc) with complex relationships between each one and the other two. What one person sees as acceptable depends on their worldview, education, profession, beliefs etc. Making decisions at the government level is fraught with challenges as society will never completely agree on a particular course of action (unless it is in response to a disaster like the Fukushima nuclear reactor leak leading to increased demand for LNG in Japan).
Some guiding principles I would think about from a Christian perspective include:
- Stewardship of the earth’s resources in sustainable way (based on the mandate to Adam (Gen 1.28), Noah (Gen 9.1-7), and the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29.5-15))
- Balancing the needs of society for employment & wealth creation with preservation & protection of nature is a judgement call for individuals and society
- Commitment to minimise the environmental impact by all reasonable means based on our accountability to a higher power, rather than compliance to minimum standards of local regulators
- All underpinned by the sovereignty of God across all of life – personal and public, church and work, individual and society.
- Seek to maximise the earth’s resources in a fair, sustainable, equitable way for the benefit of all of society, particularly the poor.
Key questions to think about for the UK’s energy policy (as a non-self sufficient island):
- Affordability – what financial cost are we prepared to pay for our energy as consumers?
- Security – how much do we want the UK dependent on foreign nations for it’s energy needs?
- Sustainability – what (especially environmental and societal) consequences are we prepared to tolerate to supply our energy needs?
- Commerce – How do we generate wealth from the natural resources we have to the benefit of all of society?
I realise this framework does not give a direct answer to the question posed in the title – the issue is too complex to be neatly packaged into a theological soundbite. I believe mature Christians can come to different opinions on this topic and other energy related topics such as onshore wind farms. Hopefully thinking about the bigger picture before diving into individual opinions will help us to be more considerate, balanced and holistic in our discussions.