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Amazon Review of Alex Epstein, "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels", 2014

It is a rare pleasure to read a book or article by someone who understands and appreciates the role of energy in our lives. Mr. Epstein certainly explains this very well in his defense of human use of fossil fuels. As he is much more eloquent than I - I will quote a few outstanding passages from his book.

“Ultimately, the moral case for fossil fuels is not about fossil fuels; it’s the moral case for using cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to amplify our abilities to make the world a better place”

“In school, we learn that this was the time of the Industrial Revolution - although at least in my case, the problems of it were emphasized much more than the doubling of human life expectancy and the far more than doubling of individual income. What exactly does the term industrial revolution mean? Well, it was a revolution in industry, which means in our ability to do physical work to be more productive, which in practice meant an energy revolution.”

“Fossil fuel energy is the food of food. It is an undeniable truth that, in providing the fuel that makes modern, industrialized, globalized, fertilized agriculture possible, the oil industry has sustained and improved billions and billions of lives.”

“Fossil fuel energy is, for the foreseeable future, necessary to life. The more of it we produce, the more people will have the ability to improve their lives. The less of it we produce, the more preventable suffering and death will exist. To not use fossil fuels, therefore, is beyond a risk - it is certain mortal peril for mankind.”

“Ultimately, a resource is just matter and energy transformed via human ingenuity to meet human needs. Well, the planet we live on is 100 percent matter and energy, 100 percent potential resource for energy and anything else we would want.”

“And we observed that the motive power of transformation, the amplifier of human ability, the resource behind every other resource, is energy - which, for the foreseeable future, means largely fossil fuel energy. There is no inherent limit to energy resources - we just need human ingenuity to be free to discover ways to turn unusable energy into usable energy. This opens up a thrilling possibility: the endless potential for improving life through ever growing energy resources helping create ever growing resources of every kind.”

“Mankind’s use of fossil fuels is supremely virtuous because human life is the standard of value, and because using fossil fuels transforms our environment to make it wonderful for human life.”

Mr. Epstein’s book is not without fault. Perhaps he overstates the obvious, but then most take energy for granted without recognizing it is the very essence of life. He “dumbs down” the complexity of the greenhouse gas issue at one point to an extreme degree with a discussion of “reflection” of infrared radiation. He references a Richard Lindzen article which is also greatly simplified but still not supportive of Mr. Epstein’s explanation. Of course, most attempts to explain the greenhouse effect are woefully inadequate so I can’t fault Mr. Epstein too heavily for his oversimplified explanation.

Overall his book is a very good read and should leave readers wondering about their own personal debt to extensive human use of fossil fuels over the past couple of centuries. How many of us actually owe our lives to fossil fuels?

(DRP 15/02/25)



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