A thought for Thanksgiving

As often happens, I am writing this week’s newsletter from an airplane.

An airplane is a good place to reflect on Thanksgiving because it is a magical form of abundance that is all too easy to take for granted.

Everything on this plane would be magical to someone 200 years ago…the sanitation system, the refrigerated drinks, the electric light bulbs—heck, the clean water—let alone this 13-inch iPad with an unimaginably bright color screen and an instant digital printing press magically powered by this keypad. Not to mention the ability to learn nearly anything and communicate with nearly anyone from 30,000 feet above the ground thanks to Wi-Fi and the Internet.

Why do we have this, when virtually all of our ancestors did not? Who did what to deserve this? These are questions we should ask out of curiosity, justice, and self-preservation.

Two answers are: freedom-fighters and fossil fuel producers.

Freedom-fighters, above all our Founding Fathers, created a society where we were free to think and to act on our thinking. All progress begins as an idea in someone’s mind. When those ideas are free to be acted upon and tested, progress is rapid. When those ideas are stopped, because some “higher” political authority finds them distasteful, progress stagnates. On Thanksgiving I will thank some of history’s great freedom fighters, especially those who stood on principle while being persecuted: Socrates, Galileo, and the signers of the Declaration who faced certain death if the colonies lost their improbable war.

Fossil fuel producers…well, I wrote a whole book on that. So I’ll just say that in all of human history only one group of people have answered the call to produce cheap, plentiful, reliable energy for billions of people—including for the millions (at least) who damn the industry while choosing its product. Nearly everyone in an economy creates some value to our lives. But I think it’s important to single out those who contribute the most while receiving the least appreciation.

Finally, thanks to all of you who read this newsletter and support my work on energy progress and human flourishing.

Six years ago I had a brand-new “organization” with virtually no money and no reputation. But from the beginning people believed in my approach and that has been building ever since. I’m fortunate enough to make a good living doing work I find very interesting and enjoyable. And to get an incredible amount of positive reinforcement from readers. When people speculate that I am overwhelmed with hate mail I tell them, “Actually, the world treats me extremely well”—and I am thinking most of all of readers of this newsletter.

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you join me in thanking the people who contribute the most and are appreciated the least.

Two interviews from Africa Oil Week

I’m still hoping to make available a recording of my debate at Africa Oil Week. In the meantime, here are two interviews I did for the event. The first is a written interview conducted in the lead up to the debate. Here is a sample:

How does [the moral case for fossil fuels] apply to Africa in particular?

Nearly half of the 7 billion people on this planet lack one of the essentials of human flourishing: affordable, reliable energy. 40% heat their homes and cook their food with wood or animal dung. 15% have absolutely no electricity.

Thus, today there are premature babies dying for lack of electric incubators, children choking on smoke from burning manure, and hundreds of other afflictions related to global energy poverty. Many of these people live in Africa.

By far the greatest alleviator of this problem over the last several decades has been the fossil fuel industry. For example, China and India have made tremendous progress toward energy abundance by quintupling their use of affordable, reliable coal and oil since 1980. This increased energy fueled increased productivity, which in turn, contributed to a 7 year increase of life expectancy in China and a 10 year increase of life expectancy in India, awondrous lengthening of the lives of 2.5 billion people.

The fossil fuel industry is the first and only energy industry capable of providing affordable, energy to 7 billion for many decades if not centuries to come—and has the potential to end energy poverty in Africa.

Unfortunately, Africans are being encouraged to turn to expensive, unreliable sources of energy, like solar and wind. The moral case for fossil fuels is vital for helping them understand why they should reject those calls and embrace an energy abundance policy that liberates the development of fossil fuels and other affordable, reliable sources of energy like hydro and nuclear.

You can read the entire interview here.

Following the debate, I did a brief interview with the organizer of the event, ITE Group. I got to discuss my standard for what a good debate is, and to elaborate on some of the ideas I discussed during the debate. You can watch a video of the interview here.