Book Review: Flipping the Energy Debate Script to Pro-Human

Published June 8, 2022

If you’re like me, you’ve long tired of arguing about the data inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and insane push to eliminate fossil fuels from our lives. Yet there is no denying the dire consequences of today’s so-called green policies that are crashing economies for no apparent reason other than to justify an arbitrary, self-imposed deadline to transition into a new era of how and where we get our energy.

Fortunately, Alex Epstein’s new book Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas – Not Less was just released, and not a moment too soon.

Epstein continues his logical approach to the subject of fossil fuels from his first bestselling book and broadens it into a context-based moral framework, bringing new tools to warriors battling extreme climate policies and their backers, politicians, foundations, and non-governmental organizations. Rather than persisting in the losing tactic of yet more data or louder protestations, he instead places the debate squarely on what’s been missing from all the discussions: the net positive impact of humans’ reliance on this most cost-effective energy source in order to continue progress and innovation for already-developed countries, and to support undeveloped countries to reach their potential to thrive, too.

In other words, Epstein checked the premise of the anti-fossil fuel movement and determined it is built solely on an immoral conviction that human impact, and thus human life, is catastrophic for the planet. Epstein decries that agenda as too one-sided to ignore, then redefines the battlefield with his unique perspective.

His answer is our new weapon against cries of environmental activists.

More of a critical thinking “how-to” work than anything else, Epstein first defines the entire knowledge system we rely on—experts, synthesizers, disseminators, and evaluators—and proceeds to show how easily they have become unethically biased, distorted, amplified, and finally revered. Most importantly, he demonstrates that the authorities that the media interviews time and again about energy are fixated on assessing negative human environmental impact as the primary moral goal, nothing more. As we learned too late during the COVID lockdowns, few policymakers or their “green” supporters have given much thought to the economic consequences of their incessant advocacy to eliminate fossil fuels. They simply desire to re-capture what has never existed—a peaceful earthly paradise.

Leaning on his background as a philosopher and obviously influenced by Ayn Rand, Epstein presents a new moral imperative framework for future debates based on human flourishing, instead. He encourages weighing both the pros and the cons equally to determine whether fossil fuels (and humans) improve life or destroy it. Rather than deifying Mother Nature and pretending the natural world is a safe cocoon for all life as long as humans don’t muck it up with pollution and nuclear weapons, Epstein shrugs off this utopian dream and proves that humans have made the planet more livable, safer, cleaner, and more productive through the use of machinery, manufactured and powered by fossil fuels, to deliver ample food, breakthrough technology, life-saving medicines, clean water, and most importantly, the time to research new solutions for our future needs.

Interestingly, Epstein embraces increased CO2 levels as a positive sign for life forms which require moderate temperatures to survive, as well as a challenge to identify and exploit future energy sources which have the potential to be even more cost-effective than fossil fuels. Until that time, however, he makes a compelling case for increasing our use of oil, coal, and natural gas, with his final chapter dedicated to give you the tools to make your own arguments, one-on-one, to disbelievers in your circle of contacts.

This book is highly relevant today, and indispensable to those willing to wade through the wealth of proof and philosophical underpinnings of Epstein’s research and first-hand experiences debating the anti-fossil fuel crowd for many years. It’s long, thorough, yet without narrative stories to soothe or excess data to numb you. (For those seeking quick answers, I recommend Chapter 3 and Chapter 11.) Epstein makes his case completely and thoroughly, and his passion for the topic and the power of his solutions shine through.