By Philip Cross, October 25, 2022
The latest book from Alex Epstein, American libertarian author and founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, elaborates the unapologetic arguments for fossil fuel consumption that he first made in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. In his latest offering, Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas — Not Less, he frames the debate about fossil fuels, prosperity, and climate change (which he pointedly doesn’t deny) from the point of view of a philosopher, not the scientists and economists who dominate the debate.
The perspective philosophy brings is summarized in an exchange Epstein had with Barbara Boxer, the Democratic Senator from California. Boxer challenged his credentials, saying “this is the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. I think it’s interesting we have a philosopher here talking about an issue,” to which Epstein justified philosophy’s relevance by saying its role was “to teach you how to think more clearly.” Clear thinking about fossil fuels and the importance of energy to humans is in short supply in all public forums today.
Epstein argues most discussion about fossil fuels is muddled and wrong-headed because the elites who control the debate, including media, pop-scientists, politicians and teachers, all simplify, misrepresent and sensationalize the often contradictory or inconclusive results of scientific research in this area. Worse, they present only the negative side effects of fossil fuels, ignoring their huge benefits in extending life expectancy, raising living standards and enabling the enormous recent increase of human population.