Commentary by James Shott
Predictions of horrible things happening if we continue burning
fossil fuels are fairly common these days. Man is killing the Earth by
continuing to use fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – to power
electricity generation, make motor vehicles go, and now even to cook
your dinner outside on the grill.
thinking has driven the Environmental Protection Agency to dictate that
the nation reduce the 2005 level of carbon emissions by 32 percent by
2030, despite that doing so will cost thousands of jobs and millions of
dollars, all to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the air by
one-tenth of a percent.
Almost no one argues that
global warming isn’t a reality. However, the current period of global
warming has taken a timeout for well more than a decade. Most people
know that for thousands of years there have been alternating periods of
warming and cooling on the Earth. The important question is, however,
whether the low level of recent warming is significant, and more to the
point, whether or not the actions of human beings contribute
significantly to the slight warming period that is now on hold.
carbon-mania gripping environmental scaremongers in the U.S. ignores
the plain fact that compared to China and India, among others, the U.S.
is by far a minor contributor of carbon emissions.
things have been forgotten – or perhaps conveniently covered up. One is
the long list of predicted global catastrophes that have not come to
pass. The other is how much better the lives of human beings are because
we have learned how to use fossil fuels to make our lives better.
According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013 “Historical Data Workbook,” 87 percent of the energy mankind uses every second comes from burning one of those fossil fuels.
who live in cold climates use fossil fuels to warm their homes, and
people who live in warm climates use fossil fuels to cool their homes.
Fossil fuels are used to plant and harvest crops that feed people, and
are used to transport food from places where food is produced to places
where it is needed and wanted. Fossil fuels are used to light the
darkness, to entertain us, transport us, diagnose disease, communicate
with each other, mass-produce products we need and want, and to provide
security in our homes and for the nation.
And we also
do not hear how much better the lives of the poorest people living in
the direst conditions on Earth could be if we were helping them to use
fossil fuels to their benefit the way the developed world does.
enables us to modify the way we use fossil fuels to control our climate
to our advantage, and to progressively improve the way we use fossil
fuels to do less harm. Because of technological advances our air today
is much cleaner than it was a hundred years ago. Technology not only
provides many wonderful assets for us, but also improves itself, so that
these crucial technologies now cause little harm to the environment.
where the world would be today if we had never learned to use fossil
fuels and to develop those technologies for our benefit. Imagine what
would happen if suddenly all of the facilities that burn fossil fuels
for electricity production and for other purposes just simply stopped
doing so for several weeks.
And perhaps that is what
is needed to get the American people to open up to the truth that using
fossil fuels not only is good for us, but also is not harmful to the
environment to a significant degree.
A major fallacy in
the war against fossil fuels is the belief that they are harmful
because they are dirty, and “natural” sources of energy like wind and
solar power are not harmful because they are not dirty. But both wind
power and solar power also have their negative side, in addition to not
being capable of replacing fossil fuels any time in the foreseeable
The rare Earth elements needed for wind
turbines, for example, can be acquired only through an enormous and
complex mining process to find and excavate them. And that mining
process requires machinery driven by fossil fuels.
a wind farm on a mountaintop requires a great deal of clearing of
wooded lands and the building of roads for access and towers for
transmission lines. Enormous solar farms both substantially warm the
acres of land beneath them and attract and kill birds.
leading environmentalists, including those who predict fossil fuel
catastrophe, hold as their most important value what they call
“pristine” nature or wilderness nature unaltered by man. They see humans
as a plague upon the Earth.
Alex Epstein, author of the excellent book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,
holds human life as his most important value. When you accept that
human life is the most important consideration, then small infringements
on nature and the environment that yield great advances and benefits
for humans are perfectly acceptable.
That is the sensible way to look at it. That is the human way to look at it.
Cross-posted from Observations