One of my goals is to bring the moral case for fossil fuels to high-level audiences who are interested in energy but are outside the core oil and gas industry. I think my most valuable ability as a speaker is the ability to move a room of smart people who expect to disagree with me.
One key area to impact is energy finance.
Energy finance plays a critical role in deciding which energy projects get funded and which don’t, and if we want to make sure that we have access to the best energy technologies, it’s vital that investors make good decisions.
Here are three new speeches on the topic of energy finance I’ve developed to give energy investors a better, pro-human framework. Please share them with anyone you know in energy finance who may be interested in a new perspective for one of their events.
And if you are interested in one of these speeches you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or, for urgent queries, call us at (949) 829-3947.
What Exactly is “Socially Responsible Investing”? A Human Flourishing Approach
“Socially responsible investing” is everywhere. There is an establishment of individuals and non-profits who make a living by pressuring companies into being more “socially responsible.”
But, argues philosopher Alex Epstein, there is too little discussion of what “socially responsible” means—and too much acquiescing to the demands of self-styled representatives.
In “What Exactly is ‘Socially Responsible Investing’? A Human Flourishing Approach” Epsteinargues that there is a legitimate component to the social responsibility movement: companies should pursue profits in accordance with a moral purpose, so that they profit in a way that does good short- and long-term.
However, defining the right moral purpose requires a clear moral standard. Many “socially responsible” efforts today are based on the standard of “green” or “unchanged nature”: companies and actions are designated as good to the extent that they don’t impact nature.
This standard, Epstein argues, is toxic. We should judge companies not by how little they impact nature but by how much they advance human flourishing. When we use human flourishing as our standard, Epstein argues, we come to very different conclusions about what is and isn’t socially responsible.
For example, Epstein argues, today’s discussions of “social responsibility” in energy prize the concept of “renewability” above all else, leading to widespread opposition not only to fossil fuels but even to non-carbon nuclear and hydroelectric power. They are cruelly indifferent to the 3 billion people who have virtually no access to energy.
By not basing “social responsibility” on a human flourishing standard many “socially responsible” investors are being deeply irresponsible—and socially destructive.
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuel Investment
Discussions today of ethical investment are divided into two camps: that investors should divest themselves of fossil fuels for moral reasons or that, for various practical reasons, they shouldn’t.
But, argues philosopher and energy expert Alex Epstein, there is a third alternative that to consider: that investing in fossil fuels is a highly moral activity. This is the conclusion he argues in the New York Times bestseller The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.
To be moral, argues Epstein, is not, as the modern environmental movement argues, to minimize our impact on nature (including climate)–it is to maximize human flourishing.
To assess whether fossil fuel investment is moral we need to look carefully at the pros and cons of fossil fuel use—and reject the common process of looking at only the pros of solar and wind and only the cons of fossil fuels and nuclear.
Epstein did just this as an outsider to the energy industry and found that investing in fossil fuels is essential to providing billions with access to energy—including the 3 billion people who have almost no energy. Its environmental and climate impacts are real but hysterically exaggerated, Epstein found. A careful cost-benefit analysis shows that to flourish humanity needs to use more fossil fuels in the coming decades, not less.
Those who are advocating or practicing fossil fuel divestment are being deeply irresponsible and doing humanity a tremendous disservice. The investment community needs to reconsider its position on fossil fuels.
How Moral Biases Cause Bad Investments
Just 10 years ago, peak oil supply was one of the most fashionable ideas in energy investing.
Today, peak oil demand has much the same status.
And although the theses are opposite, both positions are based on similar thinking errors, argues philosopher and energy expert Alex Epstein—a long-time critic of peak oil supply and now a critic of peak oil demand.
In “How Moral Biases Cause Bad Investments,” Epstein argues that all thinking about energy, including all investment about energy, is based on a framework—a starting structure of assumptions about how the world works, what is desirable, and how to get there.
In the case of peak oil supply, Epstein argues, investors unwittingly accepted the “environmentalist” framework that nature gives human beings scarce resources, that it is desirable to use as few non-renewable resources as possible, and that humanity’s large appetite for “non renewable” resources would inevitably lead to a crash.
In the case of peak oil demand, Epstein argues, investors are unwittingly accepting a framework that nature gives human beings a fragile climate, that CO2 emissions and renewability are the highest moral considerations in making energy choices, and that sunlight- and battery-based energy solutions have “exponential” properties that make them inevitable.
In his talk Epstein will elaborate on the moral biases shaping much of the modern energy conversation, argue that many of them are quasi-religious, not scientific or economic in nature, and argue for a different set of starting assumptions based on climate realism, human flourishing, and even-handed analysis of alternatives.
If you’re interested in hosting me on one of these topics, or any other topic, you can email us at email@example.com or, for urgent queries, call us at (949) 829-3947.