Table of Contents
1 Introduction: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
As though awakening from a nightmare involving a densely coal-smogged room, sweaty jiu-jitsu mats, and a stunning rear-naked-choke-reversal, environmentalists have struggled to catch their breath, gasping exasperated lines of protest while retreating to the academia and mass media ensconced high ground, they call home.
What caused this curious retreat, you might ask? One question, simply posed, by first-time author Alex Epstein: What is your standard of value?
For Epstein, the standard of value is straightforward, it is human life. He is the 39-year-old, 2011 founder of the Center for Industrial Progress thinktank, author of the New York Times Best Seller The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (2014) and nightmare-inducing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner in question.
Far from denying climate change, Epstein makes an unwavering argument from the opening chapter: the benefits of using fossil fuels far outweigh the risks. Including in his book the unavoidable facts that fossil fuels comprise 80% of all energy humanity uses and among its benefits makes possible the modern world of improved health, sanitation, agriculture, factory production, transportation, communication, electricity, increased life expectancy, and reduced climate-related deaths to name a few.
Rather than avoiding the topic, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels looks directly at the undeniable evidence of climate change, particularly at the models leading climate change scientists have used for decades to predict global warming. Comparing the data collected with these models, Epstein makes a clear and unrefuted case that these models are entirely inaccurate in predicting the degree and impact of climate change and must be examined more carefully.
Epstein focuses on contrasting the benefits of fossil fuel usage and with the arguments of the most influential environmentalists (who form the backbone of opposition to fossil fuel usage) including Amory Lovins, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, John Holdren, Paul Ehrlich, and others. Each of these individuals has decades of experience, influence, and accolades in the field, going back to the 1970s.
Regarding the experts focusing almost exclusively on risk, Epstein writes, “This is a failure to think big picture, to consider all the benefits and all the risks… we do have to consider the risks—including predictions that using fossil fuel energy will lead to catastrophic resource depletion, catastrophic pollution, and catastrophic climate change…”
The data presented in his book thoroughly correlates human flourishing on all fronts with the rise in use of fossil fuels while examining claims to the contrary, or as Epstein puts it “…when we look at the data, a fascinating fact emerges: As we have used more fossil fuels, our resource situation, our environmental situation, and our climate situation have been improving too.”
Follow this link for a look at the figures and data from the book.
Despite the heraldry and acclaim, these experts have enjoyed while prognosticating the end of days, their predictions have repeatedly fallen flat on their faces, with little public recognition of this fact. Pointing out the demonstrable flaws in their climate prediction models, Epstein provides dozens of charts of hard data which differ significantly with the doomsayers’ claims, projections, and promised outcomes. Acknowledging general global warming and the current extent of climate change is expected for any rational observer of the data, a point Epstein is keen to make.
With this acknowledgement, he stands firmly by the continued need for fossil fuels to provide cheap, reliable, energy to the developing world. Epstein debunks the notion of using ineffective intermittent energy sources such as solar or wind. Citing usage of and data regarding solar and wind, addressing fluff statistics, extreme subsidies, and a lack of any scalable process to make either remotely feasible as consistent, widespread energy producers.
Alex Epstein creates a compelling argument for anyone willing to honestly examine the big picture of energy generation. Rather than an eco-centric view, he takes the classic humanist stance of concerning oneself with the question of what benefits humanity in the long run rather than what promotes a pristine natural environment in the long run.
3 What I liked about the book
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels is a quick and easy, thought-provoking read thanks to straightforward writing paired with clear, accessible data. Epstein presents a bold, seldom-heard counter-argument to the Gordian Knot of tangled predictions, often self-contradicting data, and key outright falsehoods presented by the most prominent prophets of climate change.
While turning the standard mainstream arguments against fossil fuel on their collective heads, he presents personal anecdotes of his journey to research and challenges the fortified positions held by rigid, unbending environmental idealists and scientists alike. Even with the immense opposition he faced, he remained positive, highly motivated, and determined to state his case with tenacity.
I enjoyed the personal touches Epstein included, which provide background on his motivation and reasoning for dissent in the face of the overwhelming mainstream. These additions to the book provide insight into the author consistent with his public appearances and debates, leaving a lasting impression of the individual behind the arguments.
4 Additional thoughts and insights
The thesis of his argument is an imminently important one to me, worthy of consideration from all sides of the ongoing debate. Agree or disagree with his fundamental argument in favour of fossil fuels, this book is a refreshing contrast and timely reminder of why differing opinions is essential to a healthy and functioning civilization.
If you have the time, I recommend checking out his debates—against Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and environmentalist Bill McKibben—on YouTube which typically run over an hour and judging for yourself the strength of his arguments.
With a clear and consistent aim from start to finish, Alex Epstein makes a compelling argument for why fossil fuels have been a boon to humanity and why they should continue to do so until a better alternative is found.
Rather than throw these invaluable resources under the bus, he argues, we should examine the evidence of their contribution to climate change, basing our support of them on hard data rather than inaccurate climate change models.
Whether you are against fossil fuel usage, undecided, or for their continued use, I whole-heartedly recommend picking up this book before the summer release of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels 2.0, which promises an even deeper look at the use of fossil fuels.
Several times while reading or listening to the audiobook on flights, I was asked what I am reading. “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” I replied. More a few times the response I received was dismissive: “There is one?” or some similarly offhanded remark, closing the subject.
Unfortunately, this righteously indignant, dogmatic response is a standard—almost emblematic—reply offered by many who would not deign to entertain the possibility of a compelling perspective differing from their own. If for no other reason than making yourself aware of the totality of the modern energy debate, pick up The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels and examine the arguments made by Alex Epstein in detail.