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David O’Connor, Sr. VP for Energy & Clean Technology at ML Strategies was this spring’s featured Knox lecture. Previously the Commissioner at MA Division of Energy Resources, David has a wealth of experience in the energy industry. His talk entitled, “Ethical Issues in Energy Supply” covered the dangers of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Everett, MA.

Below is a synopsis of his talk and the lecture series.

Several million people in Massachusetts depend on the liquefied natural gas (LNG) storage facility in Everett, MA for their electricity and space heating needs. Situated in Boston Harbor, the Everett tanks hold natural gas that has been cooled to hundreds of degrees below zero. An invaluable energy source, the facility also presents a significant danger. LNG, when turned to gas, is highly flammable and burns with a ferocious intensity, much hotter than a normal fire.

An accident or a terrorist strike that breaches one of the tankers or a tank would initiate a fire that could cause widespread loss of property and human life. Public officials and activists have tried for years to eliminate the need for the Everett facility. In the forty years since the facility was constructed, the use of gas for electricity generation and space heating has only grown, making the region more dependent than ever on the Everett facility.

Why was this facility constructed where it is in the first place? Did the original designers and builders and regulators foresee the risks that are now so obvious? What are the ethical responsibilities of the owners of the facility, the government that regulates it, and the consumers who use its energy? What energy policies and public processes should be pursued to avoid creating such a dilemma in the future?

About The Knox Lecture Series in Engineering Ethics
The Knox lecture Series in Engineering Ethics, established by an engineering alumnus, is named in honor of Associate Engineering Dean Kim Knox. The new series, administered by the Tufts Gordon Institute, will focus on engineering ethics, technology policy and social justice. High profile engineering leaders will address topics ranging from intellectual property and privacy to the ethical implications of evolving fields such as genetics, nanotechnology, climate change and sustainable development.

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