By Andy May
The best-selling book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels was first published November 27, 2014 by Penguin. The author, Alex Epstein, took a BA in Philosophy from Duke University in 2002. He is the President of the Center for Industrial Progress, a former fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. He was also named as one of the top 10 in Rolling Stone’s 2013 “Global Warming Denier Elite.” High praise indeed! He was fourth on the list.
Epstein presents a very well written discussion of the climate change debate. He destroys the 97% consensus myth, explains that the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect decreases logarithmically with concentration and shows that the climate computer models used to compute man’s influence on climate have never successfully predicted anything. He also shows that global warming has not increased extreme weather of any kind and that the dangers from extreme weather are less today than at any time in man’s history largely due to fossil fuels. He discusses Craig Idso’s pioneering research proving that increasing carbon dioxide acts as a powerful fertilizer for many plants. But readers of this review know these facts, so we will focus on his discussion of the merits of fossil fuels. He is a good writer and has superhuman skills at laying out a compelling logical argument. He would have put Daniel Webster and Clarence Darrow to shame. I highly recommend the book.
According to ExxonMobil’s 2016 report, in 2014 fossil fuels produced 82% of the energy in the world. Fossil fuels have produced more than 80% of the energy used in the US for over 100 years according to the EIA. They predict that in 2040 fossil fuels will still produce 78% of the world’s energy. Oil will grow at a 0.7% annual rate and natural gas will grow 1.6% per year. Coal will slightly decline. Yet, many in society think fossil fuels are bad for us and the world.
Figure 1: Energy demand in 2014 and 2040, by source
The book challenges this idea that fossil fuels have a negative effect on society. It is a fascinating, fact filled and well-reasoned discussion of the impact fossil fuels have had on our world since they were introduced on a mass scale over 120 years ago. There are 7 billion people on the Earth today and we are better fed, live better and longer than nearly every one of the 900 million people who lived in 1800. It is worth remembering that the average life expectancy, at birth, in 1800, in the UK was about 39 years. Epstein argues that with fossil fuels:
“We don’t take a safe environment and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous environment and make it far safer.”