The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels

Alex Epstein goes against the grain in his book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. He makes a case that we should be using more, not less, fossil fuels, and at the risk of turning you off, dear reader, I dare say he made some good arguments.

The first thing to note is the goal or viewpoint he sets: the betterment of the human condition as measured by standards of living (health, wealth, happiness etc). I'm partial and sympathetic to this point of view, but I recognize that others may disagree, instead preferring to view success as something like keeping the earth as it would have been had humans not been around.

With that goal in mind, he then goes on the assert the powerfully positive impact fossil fuels have had on our standards of living so far. It's hard to argue with any of it. Cheap energy has allowed many of us to live better than kings of even the recent past, but without requiring the human and animal slaves that royalty has generally used to prop itself up.

For us, changing energy sources right now would cost more, but we can handle it. But there are huge portions of the world's population where this tradeoff is a matter of life and death. Here's an excerpt from the book about a hospital in The Gambia:

"...no matter how many times the technician suctioned out the nose and mouth, the infant did not utter a sound. After twenty five minutes the technician and nurse both gave up. The surgeon later explained that the baby had suffocated in utero. If only they had had enough power to use the ultrasound machine for each pregnancy, he would have detected the problem earlier and been able to plan the C-section. Without the early detection, the C-section became an emergency, moreover, the surgery had to wait for the generator to be powered on. The loss of precious minutes meant the loss of a precious life..."


and another:

"A full-term infant was born weighing only 3.5 points. In the U.S., the solution would have been obvious and effective: incubation. But without reliable electricity, the hospital did not even contemplate owning an incubator...she perished needlessly."

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