Thursday, April 23, 2015

Epstein’s Refreshingly Objective Presentation of the Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuels

Quora is a nice little social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3] Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

You can also reply to other users’ answers.

I posted this answer:

There is a fundamental moral conflict underpinning the fossil fuel debate—pristine, unaltered nature as the standard of value vs. human life as the standard of value. From the first, culturally dominant perspective, fossil fuels (and, more broadly, industrialization as such) are fundamentally immoral. From the second largely unidentified perspective, fossil fuels, being the most practical form of industrial energy at this time in history, is good. Epstein draws the moral battle line—unaltered nature vs. humans’ need to alter nature—and takes the pro-life side.

Unlike anti-fossil ideologues, however, Epstein presents a balanced view to support his case. He doesn’t shy away from fossil’s negatives. He tackles the main objections and risks of fossils, from pollution to climate change, head on. (He also explores the horrendous pollution consequences of wind and solar). He then compares the negatives of fossils side-by-side with the benefits—and compares fossils with their alternatives—in a clear and succinct style, and lets the facts determine his conclusions. And there is a wealth of facts.

Committed anti-fossil ideologues won’t read the book or take it seriously. Whether they acknowledge it or not, their opinions are dictated by a particular moral view and standard of value—unaltered nature as the good—and no amount of facts will alter their position unless they re-examine their embedded moral premises. But for people with a healthy respect for objectivity, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels is a real value. It is a needed counterpoint to the grossly one-sided, mainstream drumbeat against fossil fuels, which is steeped in an anti-fossil prejudice so irrational that it would make any racist look rational by comparison.


I also engaged other correspondents (no surprise there). I’ll post their comments and my replies next.

Related Reading:

The Secret History of Fossil Fuels—Chapter One, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein

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