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ABSTRACT: The Commensurability of Environmental Geology and Petroleum Geology

Ralph J. Argen

Environmental geology and petroleum geology are practical applications of pure geology. These two applied sciences differ with respect to their philosophical and ethical mandates. A good petroleum geologist finds hydrocarbons, but the role of a good environmental geologist is not well defined. If the good environmental geologist's role is not simply to protect the environment from the good petroleum geologist, then how do the mandates of these geologists differ, yet remain compatible?

If the mandate of a good environmental geologist were to protect every natural resource from all managed use, then the good environmental geologist and the good petroleum geologist would forever be at war. This mandate provides no framework for agreement because it assumes the inherent worth of each natural resource is discoverable.

If the mandate of a good environmental geologist is to discover how to maximize the long-term benefits of the managed use of natural resource, then both the good environmental geologist and the good petroleum geologist would agree that no natural resource has inherent worth. The value of a natural resource is not determined by what it is, but by how it enhances the quality of life for a particular class of sentient creatures. An instrumental theory of value will provide a medium for interim disagreement on how to enhance the quality of life for sentient creatures, and also will provide the means for a long-term agreement that the managed use of natural resources enhances the long-term quality of life for sentient creatures.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91003©1990 AAPG Annual Convention, San Francisco, California, June 3-6, 1990