The Bike Lock View of Persuasion, San Diego Science Students Use, Wide-Ranging Q&A at Lafayette College

 In this issue:

  • The Bike Lock View of Persuasion
  • San Diego Science Students Use
  • Wide-Ranging Q&A at Lafayette College

The Bike Lock View of Persuasion

In my quest to persuade more and more people of the value of energy in general and fossil fuels in particular, I often think about what I call the “bike lock view of persuasion.”

On this view, persuading someone is like opening up a 10-cylinder version of the kind of bike lock pictured below (a cable bike lock).

Think of each cylinder as some aspect of the persuasive puzzle, like how clear the explanations are, how good the examples are, how aware I am of the audience’s context, how well I address counterarguments, and so on.


What happens with the bike lock if you get almost everything right, even 8 or 9 cylinders? Almost nothing–maybe you’ll feel the lock give a little, but it doesn’t open.

But when you get all 10 right, everything opens up.

Persuasion often works this way. Sometimes we do a lot right and just a couple things wrong–but still not that much happens. But then when we get every piece of the puzzle right, we get an outsize result.

The bike lock view of persuasion is part of what’s kept me motivated to keep at this issue of fossil fuels for the last dozen years.

I still believe there are cylinders to be unlocked–and that when those cylinders are unlocked, the results will be far greater than anything I’ve achieved so far.

Part of why I believe this is that every time I get better at explaining things I get a better result. As long as this is the case I want to keep pushing my limits and see what happens.

The other stories in the newsletter this week are recent examples of my approach to fossil fuels impacting others. The better I–and we–get at persuasion, the more these stories will multiply.

San Diego Science Students Use

Last month I got a note from a science teacher in San Diego who had heard me on the Candace Owens Show.

He wrote me the following.

One course I have is AP bio, and we are nearing the “human impact” chapter…With all the blackouts and misinformation in CA, along with Newsom’s new ban on gas cars, I was hoping you possibly had material or any information I would be able to provide for my students? I try to stay apolitical, but conversations of no AC for my students keep coming up with the blackouts.

I referred him to

Last week he wrote:

Hi Alex, we wrapped up our energy lesson yesterday in a debate. One pro fossil fuels and one pro renewable. Both sides had access to resources from your site, among others. One student mastered a few of your talking points for the win. It was actually an excellent discussion, and in the debrief they admitted they had never learned or researched where energy came from and now understand the importance of fossil fuels and natural gas, as well as the issue in CA. They said they always assumed they were bad from what they were taught! And today we had a small discussion about yesterday’s VP debate, and they were happy to know what fracking was and its importance. I appreciate your resources and responses to help my students understand energy policy and plan a little better, as well as start to make their own decisions by looking into facts.

Excited to hear this, I sent the teacher as well as the two students who used my talking points to win the debate, signed copies of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

People around the country of all ages are open to the truth. We just have to share it with them.

Wide-Ranging Q&A at Lafayette College

On this week’s Power Hour I share the Q&A from my speech last week at Lafayette College. This was one of my favorite Q&As ever. The highlight was the questions of the most skeptical student, named Victoria, who raised half a dozen critical points at the outset:

  • Does my argument uncritically assume that progress is good?
  • Does my argument uncritically assume that capitalism is good?
  • Do people really choose fossil fuel energy?
  • Can the dominance of fossil fuels be explained by a lack of research into other sources of energy production?
  • Am I giving short shrift to the negative impacts of fossil fuels on human flourishing?
  • How do we factor in situations where fossil fuel development leads to conflict or exploitation?

This was just the beginning of a wide-ranging question period that also covered:

  • Energy poverty in the US
  • The value of fossil fuel-based materials
  • The “abuse-use fallacy”
  • Why the anti-fossil fuel movement is anti-nuclear.
  • Climate-related damages beyond climate-related deaths.
  • The “delicate nurturer” vs. “wild potential” view of Earth
  • What we can learn from hunter-gatherers
  • The psychological motivation for being anti-human
  • Electric cars
  • Do I have a favorite fossil fuel?

After the Q&A I thought: a year or two ago I couldn’t have answered a lot of these questions nearly as well as I can now. And I hope a year or two from now I look back and say: Wow, I could have been so much more effective at opening the bike lock! (See the first story.)

One contributing factor to the Q&A was the students’ professor, Brandon Van Dyck, who encouraged students to ask whatever questions they had, regardless of what he, I, or the other students in the room thought. I wish more professors took this attitude!

You can watch on YouTube or listen on Apple Podcasts.

Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter.

As this goes “to press” I just saw an email in my inbox from one of the students I sent a signed copy of my book:

Dear Alex,I wanted to personally thank you for your book you gifted me. I am very into environmental issues today, and it was really fun to be able to discuss and debate on Clean energy vs. Fossil Fuels. It was very difficult to debate over clean energy, but also fun to see a different perspective. I cannot wait to read your ideas on fossil fuels and hear your perspective and your ideas on the subject. Thank you again, and it was an honor to have received your book. 

I hope some readers try sharing with high school students they know. If any of them are really interested I’m happy to send them a signed book, as well.

Thanks as always to the Accelerators who help support the talking points project, the new Moral Case book, and other projects that help us spread pro-human energy thinking.

To Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Energy,