I just completed a very interesting and provocative book, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”, copyright 2014 by Alex Epstein.
Today’s society, especially western cultures, have paradoxically grown more tolerant of some types of diversity, and completely intolerant of other forms of diversity. We embrace a wide range of sexual preferences, same sex marriages, alternate lifestyles. However, if someone chooses to explore the possibility that the scientific theories and opinions which postulate man-caused global warming and climate change may be subject to alternate interpretations, they are promptly ostracized, labeled “science denier” or worse.
I believe in taking reasonable and responsible steps to minimize human impact on the environment. I also believe that it is both socially and economically wise to extract maximum value and utilization from every unit of energy which we consume. I proudly drive a Prius. I’m sure others can lay claim to more “green credentials”, but my family and I do seek to be responsible consumers of energy.
However, I also seek to understand the broad perspective of energy generation and utilization, and both the risks and benefits of our various energy options.
If you have an open mind, and want to significantly expand your knowledge and appreciation for the role fossil fuels have played in the development and sustainability of our society, I highly recommend reading this book.
Alex is not a science denier. He does not dispute that man has had impacts on the environment. However, as a philosopher, Alex applies a humanistic approach to evaluating risks and benefits. “What will promote human life? What will promote human flourishing – realizing the full potential of life? How do we maximize the years in our life and the life in our years?”
Environmental thinkers hold as their standard of value “pristine nature or wilderness – nature unaltered by man”. Alex holds “human life” as the standard of value. He observes that “fossil fuel use so far has been a moral choice because it has enabled billions of people to live longer and more fulfilling lives.”
Alex explains that fossil fuels have allowed us to create a “world that was not supposed to be possible”. He postulates that there is “nothing intrinsically wrong with transforming our environment – to the contrary, that’s our means of survival. But we do want to avoid transforming our environment in a way that harms us now or in the long term.”
The book is very well researched, and contains a wealth of objective scientific information on a wide range of environmental and energy related topics. At times the book is a bit repetitive. In his quest to comprehensively cover each of his points and arguments, he frequently repeats or reiterates key discussion topics.
“The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” doesn’t propose that we give up our quest for practical renewable energy sources. Alex is a champion for continued technological development, increased energy efficiency, reduced emissions and environmental impact. However, he offers wise council that the continued responsible use of fossil fuels, including associated human transformation of our environment, is morally responsible and a rational solution to maximize human potential.