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The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex…

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

by Alex Epstein

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It was interesting to read about the "other side to the story". Exclusively today you hear about how bad fossil fuels are to the environment and our society. This book tells the other side and stresses how without fossil fuel energy today's society would not be where it is in terms or human progress and health and also how for the future it's also important to continue using fossil fuel energy to continue improving human society.

While the author does bring good points I found the whole "turn a blind eye" to anything that doesn't improve the human condition troubling. I get a feeling that the author would fully back the extinction of many animals and plants if in the end it meant a better planet for humans. This is the attitude that I don't agree with. There is also a surprisingly large amount of suggestion on exploring shale gas extraction in this book which I've heard a surprisingly amount of negative things from the "experts". I will need to read more about this topic to get a better understanding of where the moral needle stands on fossil fuels. ( )
  briandarvell | Jun 24, 2015 |
Giving thanks where thanks are due

It's appropriate that I'm writing this review on Thanksgiving, a holiday in celebration of an abundant harvest. I think the author would approve. As The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels amply demonstrates, the predominately fossil fuel-powered energy industry is perhaps the most productive, life-giving industry of all. Energy is that important, underlying and making possible all the other varied industries that improve our lives in so many ways, from transportation to communication to an agricultural industry able to feed a global population of over seven billion people better than most people have ever been fed. It enables me to write this in a comfortable, climate-controlled home on a cold winter day and with a click of a button to share my thoughts with anyone, anywhere, who cares to read them. It makes it easy for me to travel vastly farther, faster, more safely and at less expense than has been possible to the overwhelming majority of people who have ever lived, again in complete comfort AND with the ability to listen to an unimaginably vast library of music (or any other audio content) of my choice at the touch of a button. And it powers the "smart" devices we all carry around in our pockets or purses that are orders of magnitude more powerful than the technology that put men on the moon, giving us access to more information more readily than any previous generation could have even dreamed of. Not to mention the turkey feast I'm about to enjoy. Clearly, we owe the fossil fuel industry a profound debt of gratitude. It quite literally, to use Epstein's memorable phrase, "adds years to our lives, and life to our years." Without energy, there is no life. With abundant energy, there is abundant life.

All that would be enough to rank this book among the most important published this year (or decade), but in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Epstein gives us so much more. Many other reviewers have talked about his excellent discussions of the risks and benefits of using fossil fuels, but perhaps even more important is the methodology Epstein teaches us. That big-picture thinking is just part of it. He also, for instance, lays out the proper way to use experts. This is extremely valuable at a time when the media are prone to browbeat us that all scientists agree, without ever bothering to tell us exactly which scientists think what and for what reasons, or even being very clear about what it is they supposedly agree on. (And we've seen some of the so-called scientists in this debate deliberately suppressing important information about how they derived their data and reached their conclusions.) And yet, Epstein insists that experts are important and we need to take what they say seriously. We could hardly get by without them! But the key, as he aptly summarizes it, is to use experts as advisers, NOT authorities. We should take their reasons into consideration using our own independent judgment, not simply blindly believe what we are told they collectively assert.

But for my money, the most valuable idea in the book is Epstein's insistence on approaching the issue by focusing primarily on the positive, while also acknowledging and working to minimize any side effects and risks. If we fail as a society to learn this lesson, we run the even greater risk of allowing our biases and unfounded fears to mislead us into making some very bad decisions. The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels is really a book about the life-or-death necessity of valuing the good, rather than fixating exclusively on what's perceived to be bad, using the fossil fuel industry as an eloquent case study. But we can apply this lesson to improve our thinking about any other industry, issue, or idea. This review is an attempt to apply that lesson to the book itself, and in that spirit, thanks to anyone in the fossil fuel industry who happens to read this for the enormous life-giving value you provide, and thanks Mr. Epstein for providing the even deeper value of moral clarity to underlie the energy industry that underlies all the rest.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R1FRPIE48I9YO1 ( )
  AshRyan | Nov 27, 2014 |
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The author believes that "we're taught to think only of the negatives of fossil fuels, their risks and side effects, but not their positives--their unique ability to provide cheap, reliable energy for a world of seven billion people. And the moral significance of cheap, reliable energy, Epstein argues, is woefully underrated. Energy is our ability to improve every single aspect of life, whether economic or environmental"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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