The Environmentalist Cop-out: “The Fossil Fuel Industry Made Me Do It”

Last week, I commented on a noteworthy piece of Harvard President Drew Faust’s reasoning, from her statement rejecting the demands of Harvard’s fossil fuel divestment movement, about the hypocrisy of condemning fossil fuel companies while embracing and relying on their products. She wrote:

Given our pervasive dependence on these companies for the energy to heat and light our buildings, to fuel our transportation, and to run our computers and appliances, it is hard for me to reconcile that reliance with a refusal to countenance any relationship with these companies through our investments.

Referring to this quote, environmentalist Bill McKibben said:

This is the point. . . . The fossil fuel industry has managed to maintain a pervasive control of our energy systems. This is why we need to challenge them. What a copout!’s Daniel Kessler added: “We live in the word that we live in, not the world that we’re trying to create. It’s not hypocritical to drive a car or turn your lights on.”

Contrary to these statements, no one is forced to use fossil fuels, and yet we all do (including McKibben). Why? Precisely because people are free to choose the best energy sources to meet their needs, and fossil fuels are the products they choose.

When individuals or power plants or countries choose inferior, politically-correct sources of energy, they suffer greatly, from ethanol-induced food price spikes to economic disaster in “green” Spain to the inflated electric bills we pay here in California.

You don’t have to force people to use superior products; force is only necessary if you want people to use inferior products. The pervasiveness of fossil fuels today is a direct consequence of their superiority (credit enright). The fact that McKibben uses enormous quantities of fossil fuels travelling the globe to condemn them, when he’d be significantly more convincing if he did not do that, is a testament to just how superior they are.

The claim that anti-fossil fuel activists use fossil fuels because they have to in today’s world is the real “cop-out,” designed to cover the hypocrisy of seeking to force everyone to use products their advocates refuse to choose for themselves. The inferiority of these “alternative energy” sources would be no less burdensome in a world in which people were not free to use fossil fuels—the world McKibben and are fighting for.

Gladly, that world is not one we have to live in, so long as McKibben and do not have their way.