How to point out fossil fuel hypocrisy

In this issue:

  • How to point out fossil fuel hypocrisy
  • Recommended Reading
  • Best of Power Hour: Marian Tupy on Human Progress

How to point out fossil fuel hypocrisy

During a recent speech to members of the industry I was asked, “?How do you deal with the hypocrisy of the fact that the people who oppose fossil fuels are using them everyday, whether to fly or drive or use the Internet?” Here’s a (lightly edited) transcript of my answer:It’s very tempting to criticizing people for using fossil fuels while criticizing them. But in part this is a failure of the industry. The industry never explained the value of energy and why fossil fuels are superior sources of energy. In fact, the industry is constantly out there saying, “We’re not against wind and solar, we’re for all of the above, we’re in the middle of an energy transition,” etc.  That’s why I always stress when I talk to people (a) that low cost, reliable energy is indispensable to human flourishing and (b) that the fossil fuel industry is uniquely good at creating it. People need both of those points.  I mainly use hypocrisy to illustrate those points. I tell people, “You think you hate fossil fuels, but you actually love fossil fuels.” If you remember the Extinction Rebellion protests, the protesters got caught using diesel generators to keep them warm during the protests. So I just tweeted, “Extinction Rebellion loves fossil fuels.” Notice that’s different from acting like fossil fuels are a necessary evil and we’re all sinners, which is often how pointing out hypocrisy sounds. I want to present their use of fossil fuels as a positive thing. They use fossil fuels because fossil fuels are amazing: some people spent the last 200 years figuring out how to cost effectively turn ancient dead plants into machine power and we used that to create our incredible modern world.   I’m never pointing out hypocrisy in order to criticize people’s moral character. Why not? Because my issue with Al Gore, for example, is not that he flies on private jets. That implies I would have no problem if he lived up to his ideals. But no one should live up to those ideals because they’re evils, not ideals. No, my issue with Al Gore is that he wants to prevent other people from using fossil fuels. Don’t fall into this trap of attacking people individually. Show them how much value they’re getting from low cost energy and then you can point out, “You really do love fossil fuels.”

Recommended Reading

This week Rupert Darwall, author of The Age of Global Warming: A History and Green Tyranny, published an article titled “Alex Epstein’s Clear Thinking on Climate and Energy.”

Patrick Moore retweeted the article, writing:

Screen Shot 2019-12-12 at 3.36.28 PM

According to Darwall:

Alex Epstein, the youthful pro-fossil-fuel campaigner and author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, disagrees. What [UN Secretary-General António] Guterres sees as humanity’s war on nature, Epstein regards as our successful effort to protect ourselves from raw, brutal nature—from famine, disease, natural disasters, and shortened lifespans, an effort that has, in the modern age, provided human beings with a hitherto undreamt-of quality of life. And it is energy—overwhelmingly from coal, oil, and natural gas, powering our machines and technologies—that has given rise to this unprecedented human flourishing.

Epstein’s human-centered optimism sets him apart from both sides of the climate and energy debate. As he points out in a recent talk at the University of Texas at Austin, if there is a climate crisis, it’s not showing up in the numbers that matter most. Climate-related deaths are way down from earlier periods in history. Several years during the 1930s, for example, saw more than 3 million climate-related deaths—equivalent to 10 million if adjusted for today’s population. By contrast, 2014 saw only 30,000 climate-related deaths, and 2018 just 5,625.

You can read the whole thing here.

Here are a few other resources I’ve encountered in the last few weeks I found really valuable. 

(1) “Climategate: Untangling Myth and Reality Ten Years Later” by Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick. This addresses 3 myths that were created to avoid grappling with the dishonesty revealed by the Climategate emails:

  • Myth #1: The Climategate scandal arose because “cherrypicked” emails were taken “out of context” 
  • Myth #2: The Climategate correspondents were “exonerated” following “thorough” and impartial investigations
  • Myth #3: Scientific studies subsequent to Climategate have “confirmed” and “verified” the original Mann hockey stick

(2) Michael Shellenberger has been great on nuclear vs. renewables/unreliables. In two recent articles he takes on climate catastrophism with the same rationality and humanism. Check out “Why Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong” and ”Why Climate Alarmism Hurts Us All.”

(3) “The plot against fracking: How cheap energy was killed by Green lies and Russian propaganda” by Matt Ridley explains why the U.K. didn’t benefit from the shale energy revolution.

Best of Power Hour: Marian Tupy on Human Progress

On this week’s Power Hour ”best of” episode, I talk to Marian Tupy, Senior Policy Analyst at Cato’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity and editor of HumanProgress.org, about the state of human progress, economic inequality, and some fundamental differences between Europe and America.

Alex