If our energy crisis continues to worsen, what will life be like in 2, or even 4 years? Energy expert Alex Epstein, author of ‘Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less,’ tells Glenn there are two possible scenarios — one that could result in economies crashing throughout the world, and another that could result in increased power for China and Russia. He explains it all in this clip, plus Epstein explains why fossil fuels actually have HUGE benefits, despite what the far-left may claim…
Below is a rush transcript that may contain errors
GLENN: Alex Epstein, who is with us now. He is the author of Fossil Future. Hello, Alex, how are you?
ALEX: Hey, Glenn, great to be back.
GLENN: I have to tell you, I have been waiting for weeks for this interview. Because you are the guy. You not only -- in your new book, you not only give us the way out, what we should be doing. But you're actually describing what's coming. It's insanity to cut our legs off, before we have another chair. You know what I mean? We're -- we are turning off all of our energy supply. And it can't be done this way.
ALEX: You know, one thing I talk about throughout fossil future is this phenomenon of fossil fuel benefit denial. We hear a lot about climate change denial. But the real denial is the huge benefits of fossil fuels. Which provides 80 percent of the world's energy. In a world that needs far more energy. And yet, we're talking about rapidly eliminating fossil fuels, without any evidence of a viable replacement. And that's been the insane strategy, that you've been talking about.
GLENN: Yeah. Go through some of the benefits of -- everybody is like, okay. Fossil fuels. I get it. Petroleum. So you have your cars. ALEX: Yeah. I mean, the -- the real benefit of fossil fuels, as I talk about in chapter four. Is a livable world. People talk about, oh, I'm worried that fossil fuels will make the world unlivable. But you have to recognize first that fossil fuels are the only reason why the world is livable, as you know it. So the world naturally is a very deficient and dangerous place. It's very low on resources. And it's very high on threats. We, in what I call the empowered world. Experience the world as an abundant and safe place. But that's a very unnatural phenomenon. Particularly, it's a phenomenon, to be able to use machines to radically expand and amplify our productive ability. So expand means we can produce things, using machines, powered by low-cast reliable energy, that we simply can't do with our physical body. Like providing an incubator that can save a baby's life. Then we also amplify our abilities. We can do things like run a combine harvester that can read, then thresh a thousand times more wheat, than a really good manual laborer can. So we only exist in this abundant and safe world, by the grace of all of these machines doing work for us. And that only works to the extent energy is cost-effective, which means low cost, reliable, versatile. Meaning being able to power any type of machine, and scalable. So providing energy for billions of people in thousands of places. What we're seeing with this energy crisis, is when you make energy less cost-effective. Everything becomes less cost-effective, and you see Europe afraid of winter, which is an embarrassment. And you see real threats of starvation around the world.
GLENN: Now people here in America say, well, it's not going to happen here. That's just because Europe is screwed up, somehow, and I don't want to think past that. They actually just didn't take the pause on the Paris climate accords. Right? So they're just a little ahead of us.
ALEX: Yeah, no one is following the Paris Climate Accords. In a certain sense, we are following it more than they are. But nobody is really following it, in terms of rapidly eliminating CO2 emissions, but this is what is scary. The net zero agenda has maybe had one to 2 percent success. In terms of slowing the growth of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are still growing around the world. Mostly in underdeveloped places that are less restrictive. But in general, fossil fuels are still growing. But they're shrinking in what I call the empowered world. The freer parts of the world. And even that, is called an energy crisis. Because energy is so important. And it's so desperately needed.
GLENN: So people don't really understand what it means not to have energy -- in I think it was Scotland. Amazon and Microsoft, shut down some server farms. Because they just couldn't get enough electricity. We are a -- a country, and a civilization, that is reliant on our technology. Not just our engines. But also, our technology. And if you don't have the power, you can't keep it at today's standards. But I don't know if anyone has noticed this. What's happening in the technological world is only getting bigger and more invasive in our lives. Not smaller. We need more electricity in the future, not less.
GLENN: For sure. So this is something I talk about in Chapter 5 of Fossil Future, which includes talking about it's an expanding pie, in terms of the need for energy. The biggest reason is most people are very energy poor in the world. We have 6 billion, out of 8 billion people who used the amount of energy that you and I would consider unacceptable. We have 3 billion people using less electricity per person than a typical American refrigerator. We have a third of the world using wood and animal dung, as their primary fuel for heating and cooking. So we have that. But then as you're pointing out, the parts of the world, even that are empowered, we're finding new ways to use energy. And particularly in the realm of information technology. We have rapid growth. And what you're finding, with some of these tech companies. It's really tragic, or in a certain sense, shameful. Is they are huge consumers of electricity who are rightly using more electricity. Yet, they're huge boosters of the idea, that we can get off fossil fuels rapidly. One way they do this. It's particularly insidious. I talk about in Chapter 6, an alternative. They claim to be 100 percent renewable. The literal way they do this, they pay grid to give them credit for anyone else's solar wind. And to give everyone else for their coal, gas, and nuclear. So this is really shameful. And it's promoting all the same ideas. Even though the world needs more energy, in their exhibit A of why.
GLENN: Can't you talk a little bit about -- I mean, the problem with our information system that we have now, where people believe global warming is a catastrophe. And yet, we have more information now. Or accessed more information than ever before.
ALEX: Yeah. I have a term I coined called knowledge systems, to really capture the set of institutions. We often call it the media, but that's too much of a simplification. A set of institutions that are designed to give us expert knowledge and guidance, and I think one key thing. You have these different phases by which knowledge is acquired and transmitted. So there's the research phase. But we don't just get things asked and then disseminated. And then ultimately, we evaluate, what do we do about it? Something on climate, what you see, is the actual research has quite a few biases. But that research even as it exists today, in no way justifies this idea of climate catastrophe. And certainly, no, no, way justifies the idea of rapidly eliminating fossil fuels. And replacing them specifically with unreliable solar wind. And yet, we get the narrative, oh, the scientists say, we need to get off fossil fuels and replace them with 100 percent renewable. That doesn't follow at all. So what's happening, we're getting a distortion from what I call the knowledge system. The institutions who are trusting to get expert knowledge. They're distorting the actual state of the research, to the point where we're being told that fossil fuels have no benefits. And yet reality is proving, they have huge benefits, and losing those benefits is catastrophic.
GLENN: Alex, put this on -- I mean, you've been warning about this for a long time. Put this on what's coming in some sort of scale, that people can understand. What is life like in 2030, if we continue down this path? What's it like in 2024, 2026, if we continue down this path?
ALEX: I think there are two versions of this, that we need to contemplate. One is less realistic, and one is more realistic. So the less realistic one, is the one where we all pursue anything resembling that year. We all seek to reduce our emissions without a viable replacement. Certainly, there's nothing resembling a viable replacement by 2030, particularly because you're basically not allowed to build nuclear now. If everyone did that, it would be like, much, much more extreme than what Europe is experiencing right now. And you're just seeing it. Their power bills are going up by a factor of four. All these shops are shutting down. You see the whole economy crash, because it's interdependent, in energy of the industry that powers every other industry, so the price of energy determines the price of everything. You see prices skyrocketing, and things crashing. So there's that happening, on a global scale everywhere. The reason why I say it's unrealistic, is let me ask you. Do you think China is going to participate in this, Glenn? You think China is going to rapidly -- is Russia going to?
GLENN: No. They're going to love this. They'll be providing oil for any country that is not adopting this insanity.
ALEX: And so this is one of the things I warn about in chapter 11 of the book, which I call Unilateral Disempowerment. Which Europe is exhibiting right now. Which means the freer countries decide, hey. We're going to restrict our emissions. We're going to lower our fossil fuel use. So what happens then, is you empower often the less free places, like China and Russia. And China, in particular, loves using huge amounts of coal, to produce huge amounts of unreliable solar and wind, that then ruin our economy, and our way of life. Like, that's great for their ambition of becoming a global superpower by 2049. So that's what I think is the most realistic, is that we kind of sacrifice unilaterally. And we make ourselves much less secure. Much more dependent on powers that do not wish us well. That are not pro-freedom.
GLENN: Tell me what we lose. Besides freedom. Tell me what the average person's life. How is this going to impact? How is this going to change their life?
ALEX: Well, I would just ask, have you ever been really poor?
STU: Yes, he has, Alex. I've seen it in action.
GLENN: I have.
ALEX: I'm just saying, most of us who have had success. Had areas where we didn't have much money. I certainly had that in my life. And it will be much, much worse than that. I mean, this is the thing. Because, you know, you have the element of just becoming much poorer, which people experience with even modern rises in gasoline prices. You cannot afford as much. It's not just -- it's this combination of you become poorer, but also, you're in a society, that is disintegrating. So look at Sri Lanka and other places where you have these riots. What happens is the decline is not just this smooth thing. Okay. I made 100,000. And now I made 60,000. It is chaos. Look around the world. Every time you have these fuel price crisis, it is chaos. And it's not like America is a particularly stable state right now.
GLENN: I hadn't noticed.
ALEX: So we don't -- this is not what we need. Now, the nice thing is, we have all the physical resources in the world, to produce enough energy, for a lot of people to have a good life. Like, this is a totally political -- it's culture, beneath that. So it's a political phenomenon. We can produce a lot more fossil fuel. We can produce nuclear energy. We can pursue nuclear freedom. A lot of my work, besides making clear this idea of a fossil future. Is promoting energy freedom policies, so that we can get there, and also get to new alternatives.
GLENN: So I only have about a minute left. And I want to ask you about your energy freedom. Because you're saying, let us build nuclear power. Let us -- you know, real promising alternatives. Let's release -- release the hounds here. Let us do the work. Chances of that. I mean, I'm starting to see people love nuclear energy. More than I've ever seen it since I was a kid.
ALEX: I know. That's an exciting development. Reality, this crisis. They're helping us open people's minds. If people want to check this out, go to AlexEpstein.Substack.com. And you'll see near the top of the energy freedom platform. I should say, I used to have no influence at all, on a PC, and now I work with something like 300 staffers on policy in different ways. So I'm optimistic, that there's a real appetite for new energy policy that gives us all the energy we need in the present, and promotes the positive evolution of energy going forward.
GLENN: Alex, thank you so much. Thanks for all your hard work. Founder and president of the center for industrial progress. And the author of a great new book. It's called fossil fuel -- I'm sorry, Fossil Future. The real story on energy, that no one else will tell you about. And it is important that you hear it. So you know what's going on. Alex Epstein.