Last August I had the opportunity to speak to an audience of 500 coal miners at the Kentucky Mining Institute’s annual Mine Rescue Competition—a celebration of the competence and courage of coal miners. The celebration was muted, though, by the fact that in 2013, thousands of their fellow coal miners lost their jobs—not because of incompetence, not because their product wasn’t needed, but because their President had fired the opening shots in what has been described as a War on Fossil Fuels.
For several hundred years, fossil fuels—super-concentrated ancient plant energy stored in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas—have been the leading fuel of civilization, from the steam-powered locomotives of centuries ago to the high-energy Internet of today. No other fuel has been able to match them in producing cheap, reliable energy for billions around the world.
In the last three decades, peoples around the world have used dramatically more energy to improve their lives—and most of that energy came from fossil fuels, especially coal. Overall life expectancy is up 7 years largely thanks to fossil-fuel-powered industrial progress in countries such as China and India. Imagine having someone you love live for 7 more years—and then multiply that by 7 billion–that’s the kind of progress affordable energy can help bring about.
And that’s progress in both the developing and undeveloped world; between 1980 and the present, the consumption of oil increased 3.9%, the consumption of natural gas increased 28.5%, and the consumption of coal increased 12.6%—fueling our ever-more-productive, high-tech society. (Source: World Bank Data.)
In 2007 and 2008, Candidate Obama declared his intention to destroy fossil fuel energy in America and around the world, calling for “emissions targets” that would make it illegal to use more than 20% of today’s levels. About oil, the most versatile fuel in the world, the fuel that powers 95% of our transportation system, and the fuel that has, through shale oil booms in North Dakota, Texas, and elsewhere has been one of our few sources of economic hope, he said:
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the country that faced down the tyranny of fascism and communism is now called to challenge the tyranny of oil… For the sake of our security, our economy, our jobs and our planet, the age of oil must end in our time.
What few, Obama not among them, knew, was that the oil industry Obama was comparing to the mass-murderers of the 20th century was perfecting shale oil (and shale gas) technology. Thanks to Obama’s lack of oversight in this area, shale energy technology became the leading positive economic force during his administration.
Unfortunately, Candidate Obama was well-aware of the existence of the coal industry. In 2008, he said, regarding cheap coal electricity, “I was asked earlier about coal. Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” A cap-and-trade plan on fossil fuels means a cap on affordable energy—which means less of it at higher prices. But, Obama explained, we already use too much energy: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times… and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK.”
Actually, most people around the world aren’t upset because we can keep our homes at a comfortable temperature—they are upset because they can’t. One way to help them do so is to produce and export more coal. But the Obama regime makes it ever-more-difficult to mine, generate electricity from, and export coal. Given that America is the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” and that coal is by far the fastest-growing energy source in the world, America should be experiencing a coal-mining renaissance. Instead, the workers who could be creating it are losing their jobs and their livelihoods.
The reason I was speaking to the Kentucky Mining Association was to encourage the workers to stand up to the War on Fossil Fuels by making a moral case that their industry is fundamentally good for human life—including for a healthier, safer environment. (For more on this case, see “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” and Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet.) Coal unions have historically been loud and proud defending their wages—they need to be far louder and prouder defending the very existence of their industry.
This week, I will be speaking about the War on Fossil Fuels to two other groups that have not truly stood up against it: conservatives and Republicans. At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) I will be participating in a discussion on “Can America Survive Obama’s War on Fossil Fuel?” My answer is: “Yes—if we fight back properly.”
The Republican response to Obama’s War on Fossil Fuel has been embarrassingly reactive. Instead of telling the inspiring story of fossil fuel energy technology improving life worldwide over the past several decades, most (with a few noticeable exceptions such as Rand Paul) have merely played defense against Obama’s individual attacks. Instead of explaining how fossil fuels’ impact on our lives is fundamentally healthy, they have conceded that fossil fuels are an “addiction,” “dirty energy”—but made weak arguments that we need them because they create jobs. In other words, they have conceded the high ground to attackers of fossil fuels.
I’m going to CPAC not because I’m a conservative—I’m far more laissez-faire than most conservatives are comfortable with—and certainly not because I approve of the direction of the Republican Party, which advocates nothing resembling capitalism these days. I’m going to CPAC because I hope that among conservatives and Republicans and also among the liberals and Democrats who will be paying attention, there are those who, if they understand the big-picture benefits of fossil fuels, will want to fight for them.
I’ll be there wearing my green I Love Fossil Fuels t-shirt—and I’ll bring a couple hundred along in case anyone else wants to wear one, too. Maybe I can get a few politicians to stand up proudly that they, too, love fossil fuels. And if any Democrat politicians want to come and wear one, that would be amazing. Because this should not be a Republican or Democrat issue. It should be a human life issue. If you care about human life, and you understand the importance of affordable energy, you should love fossil fuels. And if you’re at this year’s CPAC, here’s how to join us.