Energy Policy, Risk and Coal




·         When we look at energy risks through the prism of the most recent accident, we turn a blind eye to the (sometimes greater) risks associated with the alternatives.

·         We should learn from the ongoing studies of hydraulic fracturing and from the Fukushima nuclear accident in order to improve our regulation of these forms of energy production.

·         However, in so doing we are focusing on health and environmental risks that pale in comparison to the enormous risks we tolerate from coal-fired power production every day.


David Spence recently published an opinion piece in the Houston Chronicle on energy risk.

Lately we have heard a lot about the risks associated with the way we produce and use energy. We worry that producing natural gas by fracturing underground shale formations will contaminate our groundwater, or that American nuclear power plants might be susceptible to a Fukushima-type disaster.

We should worry about these risks. They are an important part of the cost of producing and delivering energy, a cost that is sometimes shifted to society rather than borne by the energy producer. Unfortunately, however, we rarely look at these risks in comprehensive and clear-headed ways. Instead, we look at them through the prism of the most recent accident. In so doing, we turn a blind eye to the (sometimes greater) risks associated with the alternatives.

Read the full piece on the Houston Chronicle site.


Faculty in this Article

David Spence

Professor, Business, Government & Society

Professor Spence's research and teaching focus on business-government relations with emphasis on energy and environmental regulation. He received his...

David Spence teaches in the Texas Executive Education program, featuring open enrollment, custom and certificate classes for executives and organization teams.

About The Author

Elayne Crain

Founder, Austin Sugarworks, LLC

Do you love sweets? If you answered yes, you already have one thing in the common with Austin Sugarworks founder Elayne Crain. If you said no, she’s...

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