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Page added on November 26, 2014

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Fossil fuels have made all our lives better


Here’s a question for Floridians to ponder: Is it good that your state generates 86 percent of its
electricity from fossil fuels?
I’d wager most of you would say no. So would many of the politicians and bureaucrats directing
America’s energy policy. This was on full display earlier this month, when President Obama announced that the United States and China have reached an agreement to limit both countries’ carbon dioxide emissions, which primarily come from fossil fuels. Such efforts have broad support from the general public — one recent poll shows that 51 percent of voters want to reduce fossil fuel usage, while only 22 percent want to increase their use.
But the 22 percent are on to something. I’ve spent the better part of my life researching fossil fuels —
both their pros and their cons — and I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion: Fossil fuels are morally praiseworthy — and our lives would be better  if we ramp up their use.

To understand why, we have to take a step back and look at fossil fuels in the scope of human history. The energy sources that fall into this category — oil, coal, and natural gas — played little to no role in mankind’s cultural or economic development until the late 1700s and early 1800s. Only then did humanity recognize fossil fuels’ potential to generate power. That power, in turn, was used to create the technological and economic advances that took us from no indoor plumbing to landing on the moon in less than 200 years.

The trend is striking: Increased fossil fuel use correlates with every positive metric of human well-being — from life expectancy to income to nourishment to clean water access to safety.
The last few decades demonstrate this trend most clearly. Fossil fuel usage has been steadily growing across the world — in America, it has risen by 25 percent since the 1970s. Developing countries like China and India have driven that growth more than any other countries, using fossil fuels to power their
economies. At the same time, they lifted billions of people out of poverty — an unprecedented feat in human history.

Fossil fuels also have helped improve the world’s access to clean water. According to World Bank data, access to clean water increased from 76 percent of world population in 1990 to 89 percent in 2012. This seems counter-intuitive at first glance, but technological advances in pollution reduction were actually enabled by cheap, fossil fuel-generated energy.
Put another way, fossil fuels powered the innovation that ultimately limits their own environmental drawbacks.
We’re also safer than at any point in history thanks to oil, coal and natural gas. Climate-related deaths are down 98 percent over the last 80 years. Last year saw a record low of 21,122 such deaths worldwide/

24 Comments on "Fossil fuels have made all our lives better"

  1. J-Gav on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 5:13 pm 

    Almost unbelievable tripe.

    Of course fossil fuels have made our lives better (apart from the victims of their pollution) – UP TO NOW! The future, however, does not portend to be so rosy.

  2. AWB on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 5:19 pm 

    Sorta like enjoying a slice of cake and then deciding it best to eat the whole cake right there and then

  3. GregT on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 6:27 pm 

    Alex Epstein’s Bio:

    I write about the environmental benefits of industrial progress.
    An energy philosopher, debater, and communications consultant, I am the Founder and President of the Center for Industrial Progress and head of the I Love Fossil Fuels Campaign. I have defended fossil fuel energy in debates against Greenpeace,, and the Sierra Club. You can read more about my work at, and see the first chapter of my new book free at

    No need to say anything more.

  4. MSN fanboy on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 6:56 pm 

    OH COME ON!! He has a point.

    Fossil fuels have made our lives better in every respect! Ever been to a hospital? supermarket? own a car… own a computer???

    The candle that shines twice as bright lasts half as long.

    Our civilisation has shined brighter than any other has and ever will.

    Pity we last half as long.. or two centuries.

  5. Makati1 on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 7:28 pm 

    The title is only a personal view. It could have lifted us to the stars. Instead, it is taking us to hell, literally.

    Genetic code breaking could have made a better understanding of our planet, but it is used to put poisons in crops that we are being forced to eat, and killing off the very ecosystem that our lives rely on.

    Yes, man can always find a negative in every advancement, if there is profit involved.

  6. JuanP on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 7:29 pm 

    I will give this guy credit for having realized the connection between fossil fuel energy and industrial growth and economic properity. In that, at least, his understanding is better than most people’s.
    I laughed hard with this one. Most people are gonna be a mess when BAU collapses. I think the Zombie description will be very fitting for many, if not most. At least for a while.

  7. JuanP on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 7:35 pm 

    Mak “The title is only a personal view”

    I completely agree. All value judgments are personal. Whenever I read good, bad, worse, or better I know I am facing value judgments. Value judgments are like opinions and values, a personal thing. JMG has been writting about this. I always try to separate judgments and opinions from statements of fact.

  8. Speculawyer on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 8:12 pm 

    Leaded gasoline was also believed to be quite beneficial.
    Thalidomide was a useful drug until problems were discovered.
    Leaded paint was always nice & shiny!

  9. Makati1 on Wed, 26th Nov 2014 10:46 pm 

    JuanP, me too, but there are so few real facts presented in most articles today because they would disprove their view of the world or their paid-for view of the world. All we can do is rely on our own intelligence and common sense/experience to see the direction we are headed and try to mitigate the pain as much as possible for ourselves and our loved one.

  10. meld on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 4:37 am 

    pumping your veins with heroine makes your life better…until it doesn’t,

  11. ghung on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 7:18 am 

    Poor little fossil fuels need someone on their side, y’know?

  12. Kenz300 on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 7:22 am 

    The RepubliCON party is funded by the fossil fuel industry and will do all they can to slow the growth of any alternatives. They will not be successful.
    Climate Change is real……. even if the RepubliCONS do not get it…. they will however like the fact that alternatives are safer, cleaner and CHEAPER…….. The greed is good gang will come along as wind and solar gets cheaper every year.


    Wind Energy Provides More Than Two-Thirds of New US Generating Capacity in October


    Solar and Wind Energy Start to Win on Price vs. Conventional Fuels

  13. Dredd on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 8:37 am 

    Alex Epstein’ is an Oil-Qaeda shill, and advocate for mass murder.

  14. Pveroi on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 9:41 am 

    Garbage. We could’ve used many fuels to do the same if not at the same rate. As a highschool report I’d give this guy an A-. Given his bio, this person appears to think his fellow countrymen are STUPID too. A lot of that going around. What a waste.

  15. Makati1 on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 7:11 pm 

    Pveroi, name one energy source that could replace oil for compact, usable power that does NOT come from oil powered resources/processing. (Mines, wells, manufacturing, etc.)

    I’m waiting…

  16. toms2 on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 8:39 pm 


    There are many substitutes for all uses of fossil fuels. For example, it’s straightforward to manufacture anhydrous ammonia from wind power, air, and water. Anhydrous ammonia is a liquid fuel which will burn inside diesel engines. And there are many, many other substitutes which are too numerous to list here. None of them are price competitive, but there are many of them.

    Although the substitutes would come from oil powered machinery AT FIRST, the oil powered machinery itself could subsequently run on the alternatives. Oil would be required ONCE until the mining machinery etc is transitioned to alternatives. This is a VERY basic allocation problem which is routinely solved by mining companies and others.

    There is absolutely no chance of a collapse of civilization due to these issues.

    -Tom S

  17. dubya on Thu, 27th Nov 2014 11:33 pm 

    “..our lives would be better if we ramp up their use.”

    No shit. I think it’s Tom Cruze or John Travolta who spent $1,000,000 on aviation fuel one year. I would say he has a pretty good life.

    As to the other 7,000,0000,000 people on earth and all those who may or may not exist in the future – fuck em.

  18. GregT on Fri, 28th Nov 2014 12:07 am 

    “There is absolutely no chance of a collapse of civilization due to these issues.”

    Keep repeating that to yourself over and over Tom, and everything will be just fine. They will think of something. They always do.

    Meanwhile, for the rest of you that understand that it isn’t possible to run modern industrial society on anhydrous ammonia, and the many other too numerous to list substitutes, learn how to become as self sufficient as possible. Especially in food production. Toms2 and his kind don’t need to worry. They live on imaginary ‘smurfberries’.

  19. Davy on Fri, 28th Nov 2014 6:51 am 

    OOo, Tommy, you uttered the “A” word. That is when our statements get bold when we hear absolutely in the discussion. That is when one needs to raise an eyebrow and scratch our heads. I echo my buddy Greg. You are dwelling in fantasy. Tommy, BAU does not appear likely with AltE man. Complexity would have to drop to turn of the 20 century levels. We would have to manage population down to around 1-2BIL. Life would become seasonal and variable with the renewables embraced.

    I am talking the natural renewables and the technological renewables. Agriculture would have to revert to pre FF age with modern permaculture enhancements. We would have to become a hybrid people with new and old. Animal power, animal transport, sail transport, mechanical wind, steam power, and biomass heating. All these things along with the technology and knowledge we have now distilled down to what would have applications in a less complex world.

    The key element is control of the population. The population would have to be disciplined like an army. We would have to get along like a Native American tribal arrangement i.e. communal not individualistic. Markets and individualism would not work in this situation. War would not work. The reason I mention this is the degree of difficulty to have complexity in a low energy intensity environment. Everything must be very resilience, sustainable, and efficient. Not efficient by today’s standards but efficient by natures standards. Nature’s efficiency means low waste and high connectivity to the ecosystem for resilience and sustainability.

    Today’s AltE is industrial and just another widget. What today’s AltE lacks is attitudes and lifestyles to connect to them. The grand highly complex large AltE build outs into a vast complicated grid have no future except in an energy intensive and hyper complex world like we have now. This world we have now is on life support or why would a corn like you be here? If you hung around to get this far in my spiel you will see what I just explained could be reality but in reality is fantasy because humans are not capable of this level of management except in small groups. Maybe that is my last point. If humans have a long term evolutionary future it is not as modern man in the populations and interconnection we see today but something postmodern that resembles pre-modern.

  20. JuanP on Fri, 28th Nov 2014 7:51 am 

    Tom, you are absolutely wrong and absolutely hilarious. I am glad for people like you. We need to thin the herd a lot and people like you won’t last two weeks after collapse, making things easier for the rest of us who are preparing. I expect 99% of the people like you to die before I run out of stored supplies.

  21. toms2 on Fri, 28th Nov 2014 11:57 am 


    “I expect 99% of the people like you to die before I run out of stored supplies.”

    I expect you will still be here after another ten years.

    -Tom S

  22. Northwest Resident on Fri, 28th Nov 2014 12:23 pm 

    Define “better”.

    Easier? Check. Resulting in multitudes of severely overweight, out of shape, weak people whose lives have been made easier by use of fossil fuels.

    Better medical care? Check. Resulting in a top heavy layer of extremely old and feeble people living far beyond their natural lifespan, creating a multi-trillion dollar industry dedicated to keeping old geezers kicking for just a little while longer — for those who have the money and/or the insurance — while many billions live in poverty and destitution. A serious misallocation of resources if ever there was one.

    More stuff? Check. Vast landfills full of plastic and metal junk, mere trinkets and gadgets and assorted useless items. To produce all that junk they had to mow down forests, wipe out species, obliterate landscapes and dump all the toxic waste into the air, the landfills and the water.

    More happiness? NO CHECK. People are NOT happier because they have more things and because their lives have been made easier. People are living under stress that is unknown to indigent peoples who still live out their lives the old fashioned way — hunting, gathering and raising crops. The Age of Oil has produced a plastic reality and driven humans into conflicts and levels of stress that are nearly unbearable.

    Science and technology: Check! I am thankful for the better understanding of the universe and all its mysteries. The fields of physics and quantum mechanics have produced truly amazing results. Human ability to learn and to apply scientific knowledge has lead to many wonders of technology. Unfortunately, humans being what they are, we have applied our scientific knowledge toward nearly as many destructive ends as we have creative ends.

    In Voltaire’s novel “Candide”, the main character set out to explore the world and have a great adventure. What he discovered in the world was evil, chaos, mayhem, injustice, betrayal and more. Ultimately, he returned to his home much wiser to tend his garden, forsaking the world at large, and found happiness in his little plot of land. This character’s journey is analogy for modern humans in the Age of Oil. With unbridled optimism we set out to accomplish great things, but it definitely did not turn out good for us. And so, I think in the end humanity will return to tending its little garden on a small plot of land, and that is where true happiness is likely to be found. We definitely made a mess of things with our misuse of fossil fuels.

  23. Jeff on Fri, 28th Nov 2014 4:20 pm 

    “Fossil fuels are morally praiseworthy — and our lives would be better if we ramp up their use.”

    “I write about the environmental benefits of industrial progress.”

    There are no environmental benefits to industrial progress, there are only environmental degradations.

    This guy is a fucking idiot.

    Somebody please publish his address – he needs to be put out of his misery, especially the misery he’s trying to inflict on the rest of us.

  24. Newfie on Sat, 29th Nov 2014 5:11 pm 

    Fossil fuels are going to fry this planet to a blackened crisp. A 5 degree rise in global temperature is predicted for this century. Drill baby drill and then fry baby fry.

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