Fossil fuels might just be the most demonized thing of the past two decades. Oil spills, holes in the O-Zone, toxic chemicals, fracking, global warming. The list goes on and on. The anti-fossil fuel narrative is so strong that you can see people on both sides of the political aisle condemning them. But one man has made a moral case in favor of fossil fuels. Once you hear it, you'll never look at fossil fuels the same way again.
Related: Check out Alex Epstein's book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
"My background is in philosophy," Alex said. "And when you take philosophy, you question assumptions. If you look at the assumptions behind all the arguments against fossil fuels, they turn out to just be incredibly irrational. So for me, it was really a logical thing. I saw this thing that everybody is arguing about, and it turns out if you think through it logically, the majority is completely wrong."
"When you grow up, at least in modern America, you're taught this narrative. And George W. Bush actually help promote this, that fossil fuels are an addiction. So there's something that might be convenient on the short-term, but the long-term they're destroying us. And you're given three basic reasons: One, they're causing depletion. Two, they're causing pollution. And, three, they're causing global warming or climate change."
How does Epstein combat that argument?
"In any endeavor in life, you have to be clear in what is your primary purpose, and then what's the secondary purpose? If your ultimate goal is to maximize human well-being, then you care about your environment as a means to maximize human well-being. But you don't think of it as minimizing your impact on the human environment," Alex explained.
"We have to distinguish between a negative impact on the planet and a positive impact. What the green philosophy says is we should minimize impact as such. So let's take the decision to build New York City. If New York City was up for a vote today, does anyone believe that the environmentalists would yes? What about Chicago? What about the first hospital? What about any given baby? No. So the idea is that if humans have an impact, it's bad as such. Now, the rest of nature can have any impact it wants. So there's really a fundamental bias against humans. And I think everyone has bought into anti-impact as an ideal. Where it should be, you want anti-negative impacts for humans. So I'm a humanist that cares about my environment. I'm not an environmentalist."
Alex said the key with his arguments in favor of fossil fuels is to start by asking what maximizes the well-being for human beings.
"They key is getting what energy is. Most people have no idea how valuable energy is. So energy is our ability to use machines to improve our lives. Every human being in the United States has an average of 96 machine servants doing work on his behalf. You know, we ourselves are very weak. Physically we're very weak. That's why we have a life expectancy of 30. We can't do much work. If we have machines that do work for us. We can get so much done. We can build hospitals. We can build roads."
"If you get that everything in our lives have improved by machines, if the machines don't have fuel, they die. They don't work. They're like us. So fossil fuels are the best source ever of machine calories. They give all of our machines the calories they need to work. If those calories become scarce or expensive or unreliable, everything starts to shut down. Certainly Mercury Studios. But a lot of stuff besides it. The agriculture shuts down. And every cent you add, say to the price of oil, that means the diesel fuel and the tractor that grows our food becomes more expensive. That means our fertilizer becomes more expensive. So energy is fundamental."