Yesterday morning I had my debate with Charlotte Aubin of Greenwish Partners on the topic of “Phasing Out Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case.”
Here’s an excerpt from my opening:
Consider the following moral situation. An area of the world with a billion people, mostly extremely poor, desperately needs to industrialize. But the wealthy parts of the world—who used cheap, plentiful, reliable energy from fossil fuels to industrialize—tells those 1 billion people that they need to use something else, they need to use something more green andmore sustainable. What should those 1 billion people do?
Well, this is a situation that is faced by sub-Saharan Africa today. But interestingly it was also a situation faced by China in 1980. Back in 1980, the average income in China was $200 in today’s dollars. (In sub-Saharan Africa, I believe today it is around $1,500.) And so you had a billion people, and there was the desire to industrialize.
But even back then fossil fuels were extremely culturally unpopular. There was the view that they were unsustainable, and certainly no one was endorsing a huge program of massive fossil fuel increase to industrialize. But that’s exactly what China did.
And there’s a lot to learn from it, including something to learn from China’s mistakes, such as using fossil fuels carelessly. But I think the biggest thing to learn is that by quintupling their use of coal, by quintupling their use of oil, by each citizen of China using 400 percent more energy than they used to, that drove an industrial progress that brought the average income from $200 to $8,000 and helped contribute to a life expectancy of 76.
And so just as China independently thought about what was best for its people, I believe Africa needs to do the same thing today. And as part of that, it needs to think about it carefully: what is actually in the best interest of Africans? And I think absolutely we cannot count on the rest of the world—including where I come from, the United States—to give good guidance.
When the back and forth section of the debate came I think I was effective at answering Charlotte’s criticism of fossil fuel use as “short term” and showing that the best long-term policy is not repetitive, “sustainable” practices, but ever-evolving best practices.
To her credit, Charlotte was one of the most civil individuals I’ve ever debated, which I appreciate. I think we made a lot out of our 45-minute segment, which is short for a debate.
I’m working on getting a full recording.
Speaking about Winning Hearts and Minds to African Energy Leaders—and SecretaryPerry
After my debate I gave a speech to a group of CEOs, oil ministers, and other energy leaders in Africa.
A pleasant surprise was that among the attendees—and seated next to me—was US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. Secretary Perry seemed interested in my 20 minute speech about “Winning Hearts and Minds” and we had a good conversation afterward.
Energy Champion: not just for companies
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the value of my Energy Champion program for companies and energy industry workers. But the program is great for anyone interested in learning more about energy and improving their ability to champion fossil fuels.
If you’d like to sign up, just visit energychampion.net and register for a single license.
Austin, LA, and Harvard — 6 speeches in 6 days
October is one of the busiest speaking months of the year and I’m just wrapping up my busiest speaking week of 2017.
Last week I gave a speech to a group of companies in Austin, including Anthem Ventures, Atlas Sand, ATX Energy Partners, Brigham Minerals, Drilling Info, Jones Energy, Luxe Energy, Parsley Energy, and Venado Oil & Gas. There were several hundred in attendance and I got a lot of enthusiastic responses. Thanks to our longtime friend Bud Brigham for organizing the event.
On Friday I gave two speeches at California Resources Corporation (CRC). Since Southern California is my adult hometown I am always eager to help the good and often mistreated people of the California oil industry. Both of my speeches at CRC were about how toreframe conversations about energy.
I met a lot of smart, passionate people there and I expect to hear big things from them.
On Friday night I took a red eye from LA to Boston to do a fireside chat at Harvard in the early afternoon.
As I mentioned last week the chat featured Michael Lynch. He asked some thoughtful questions and the audience seemed really engaged. Most of the questions were frompeople who hadn’t been familiar with my work but who seemed genuinely intrigued by the approach. A recording of the event should be available soon. In the meantime, here are a couple excerpts.
On climate safety:
Climate safety is primarily a product of technology. . . . When I was in Houston a few months ago—this was before the storm—and I was complaining about the weather, a friend said to me, “Well, this is nothing because in India you get to 110 plus degrees and we were poor and we just had a fan and we huddled around the fan.”
I thought of this and I thought, the big solution people offer to that problem today is: let’s figure out a way to get it from 110 to 109. My solution is: get them a damn air conditioner. And that’s what’s needed around the world. Priority number one for the purpose of climate liveability is that people need technology and industrialization. Anything that slows that down I think is really, really bad.
On pollution in China:
My strong guess is there are many things that they could do that would not be super costly that would make things a lot better in terms of pollution. One thing you have there is that China is not a fully free country at all and the government is often on the premise of doing things that benefit some groups or that benefit the government at the expense of other individuals. That’s completely contrary to my own concept of human flourishing, which holds that every individual matters. It’s not okay to just pipe smoke in one person’s house in order to make two neighbors better off.
But to your point, it’s important to recognize that the goal in China should not be zero emissions. If our goal is zero emissions, we could just all kill ourselves. The goal is maximum life. So we want the emissions level that’s consistent with maximum life.
The more I speak in different places and the more I experiment with different variations on my content, the more convinced I am that human flourishing-based ideas about energy can win over many people whom others consider unreachable or unpersuadable.
And thus by sharing my book, YouTube videos, and articles you can influence a lot more people than you might think.