Could everything we know about fossil fuels be wrong?
For decades, environmentalists have told us that using fossil fuels is a self-destructive addiction that will destroy our planet. Yet at the same time, by every measure of human well-being, from life expectancy to clean water to climate safety, life has been getting better and better.
How can this be?
The explanation, energy expert Alex Epstein argues in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, is that we usually hear only one side of the story. We’re taught to think only of the negatives of fossil fuels, their risks and side effects, but not their positives—their unique ability to provide cheap, reliable energy for a world of seven billion people. And the moral significance of cheap, reliable energy, Epstein argues, is woefully underrated. Energy is our ability to improve every single aspect of life, whether economic or environmental.
If we look at the big picture of fossil fuels compared with the alternatives, the overall impact of using fossil fuels is to make the world a far better place. We are morally obligated to use more fossil fuels for the sake of our economy and our environment.
Drawing on original insights and cutting-edge research, Epstein argues that most of what we hear about fossil fuels is a myth. For instance . . .
Myth: Fossil fuels are dirty.
Truth: The environmental benefits of using fossil fuels far outweigh the risks. Fossil fuels don’t take a naturally clean environment and make it dirty; they take a naturally dirty environment and make it clean. They don’t take a naturally safe climate and make it dangerous; they take a naturally dangerous climate and make it ever safer.
Myth: Fossil fuels are unsustainable, so we should strive to use “renewable” solar and wind.
Truth: The sun and wind are intermittent, unreliable fuels that always need backup from a reliable source of energy—usually fossil fuels. There are huge amounts of fossil fuels left, and we have plenty of time to find something cheaper.
Myth: Fossil fuels are hurting the developing world.
Truth: Fossil fuels are the key to improving the quality of life for billions of people in the developing world. If we withhold them, access to clean water plummets, critical medical machines like incubators become impossible to operate, and life expectancy drops significantly. Calls to “get off fossil fuels” are calls to degrade the lives of innocent people who merely want the same opportunities we enjoy in the West.
Taking everything into account, including the facts about climate change, Epstein argues that “fossil fuels are easy to misunderstand and demonize, but they are absolutely good to use. And they absolutely need to be championed. . . . Mankind’s use of fossil fuels is supremely virtuous—because human life is the standard of value and because using fossil fuels transforms our environment to make it wonderful for human life.”
Customer ReviewsSee All
Great read. Very insightful. The book looks not only at the advantages and risks of fossil fuels, but also the core standard of value people use when forming their opinion on the issue. It looks at the big picture. This is important, because if you have a different standard of value (human life vs unaltered environment) you will come to different conclusions. This is something often overlooked and not discussed in the energy debate.
A Focus on the big picture
Alex Epstein is making the moral case for the use of fossil fuels in this book. The usual debate about climate change and renewable energy always focuses on the environmental impact of fossil fuel and the fact the solar/wind power don't have this impact. Alex Epstein is doing something different, he is first establishing the standard of value for comparison. He is adopting human life and well being as the standard of value so he is evaluating the different sources of energy as they impact this standard of value. The modern environmentalists are adopting a standard of none impact on nature.
In adopting which standard to choose it is important to realize that nature is not hospitable for human life by default and that the history of human civilization is mostly about building the technology to change and conquer the different forces of nature such as cold, heat, famine, disease and storms. All of the success of the human civilization to achieve these goals depends on Energy. Energy is the foundation of our modern life that allowed us the extend the life expectancy, defeat diseases and adapt to the harsh and adversary Nature. A reliable and abundant energy is essential to our way of life and to lift the billions of people who are still stuck in pre-industrial economy to the modern industrial economy. Any discussion about the morality of the use of any source of energy should take this big picture into consideration.
This leads us to adopt human life as the standard of value and as the book successfully demonstrates fossil fuel energy made a positive impact on all areas of human life and all of their negative impacts could be solved by technology and this makes the moral case for the continued use of fossil fuels to support the progress of the human civilization.
The book also covers the other sources of energy such as solar, wind, nuclear and hydropower and shows the deficiencies of solar and wind and how the political campaigns of the environmentalists blocked nuclear and hydropower.
For years the opponents of fossil fuels have portrayed the use of fossil fuels as a moral crime against the environment and this book successfully transforms the discussion to the moral value of continued use of fossil fuel to make future progress possible for us and coming generations.
Every citizen would benefit from reading this book and learn the facts to hold the political leaders who opposed fossil fuels accountable to the damage they are inflicting.
Rock solid data sources
This book is backed up my rock solid data which make it very inconvenient for the typical environmentalist. I was very skeptical because the brainwashing we get about fossil fuels, but the human life standard of value and the immense improvement of life for all humans over the last 100 years is an absolutely unbeatable argument backed with data from universally accepted sources.