Examining the Future of Fossil Fuel

Here’s a question for every oil and gas producer in California. It is especially directed to the five “bad guys” — Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP — that were recently sued by California’s grandstanding attorney general, Rob Bonta: When are you going to quit playing defense? As Alex Epstein has tirelessly expounded both in his book, Fossil Future, and in his ubiquitous (and suppressed) musings online, energy from oil and gas powers civilization. It is the primary reason a middle class lifestyle is affordable for billions of people.

Not only are oil and gas, and even coal, cheap and nearly inexhaustible sources of affordable fuel, still powering 80 percent of ALL energy used in California (barely better than the world average of 82 percent), but because it is so cheap, it remains affordable even if included in its price are funds to eliminate from emissions any unhealthy pollutants. And there is growing evidence that fossil fuels also have a much smaller environmental footprint than all other sources of energy with the possible exception of nuclear.

Which brings us to the boogeyman of this age, CO2. Are these oil companies willing to aggressively defend themselves even if that might generate bad PR? CO2 is life. After all, without CO2, every plant on earth would die. What if the overall health of our planetary ecosystems, on balance, would be better off with more CO2 in the atmosphere, not less?

With apologies, we are obligated to share this heresy, because it is our conclusion, based on overwhelming evidence (don’t try to find it on Google), that the menace of anthropogenic CO2 is not “settled science.” If you find this horrifying and offensive, consider the possibility that you simply have not been exposed to contrarian data and analysis, except maybe in the context of biased reports discrediting it. So this week, let’s dive deep into the scary, forbidden territory of climate crisis denial.

Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” So it is with climate alarm. We are expected to accept without question not only the crisis narrative, but literally anything proposed to supposedly save us from the alleged catastrophe. But as the distinguished climatologist Dr. John Christy explained at a meeting of water executives last October in Orange County, using unfiltered data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, there is no evidence that California is experiencing rapid or dangerous climate change.

Here are four books that are must-reads for anyone willing to engage in activism — or pass legislation — on the issues of climate and energy: False Alarm by Bjorn Lomborg, Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger, Unsettled by Steven Koonin, and Fossil Future by Alex Epstein. Along with providing useful summaries of the data and arguments in these books, the reviewer acknowledges Epstein’s unique contribution to the discussion over climate and energy, that extreme environmentalism has brought us to the point where “eliminating human impact, not advancing human flourishing, is the primary moral goal driving our knowledge system in the realm of energy.”

If you’re looking for nuance, which is sorely missing from mainstream policy discussions over climate, read Judith Curry’s website. Until a few years ago the Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Curry has a Ph.D in geophysical sciences, which makes her as qualified as anyone to opine on the multidisciplinary field of climate science. Curry has been dubbed a “lukewarmer” based on her acknowledgement – along with Christy and many others – that the planet is experiencing a moderate warming trend, but not an alarming one. Why isn’t Curry testifying before a legislative committee in Sacramento? When California’s state government prepares – to cite just one example of their irrational exuberance – to spend billions to subsidize hundreds of floating offshore wind turbines that are each longer (vertically) than a modern US Navy supercarrier, a dose of sanity is urgently required.

Also offering sanity is the CO2 Coalition. Behind their innocuous mission statement, “we seek to strengthen the understanding of the role of science and the scientific process in addressing complex public policy issues like climate change,” is an organization with a clear message that might be distilled to this: Atmospheric CO2 is too low, not too high, and the warming effect of each molecule of CO2 declines as its concentration increases. Those who are skeptical about these skeptics should review the group’s About page, where 132 coalition members are listed, along with their biographies. These are credentialed scientists willing to stand behind the claims made by the CO2 coalition. Earlier this year, the CO2 Coalition had its LinkedIn account cancelled for “misinformation.” Can that be justified? Read their material and make up your own mind.

While it is healthy to have contrarians among us, that doesn’t justify holding contrarian viewpoints merely for the sake of being contrary. But when a premise becomes so huge and so unquestionable that it becomes the bludgeon to enforce policies that might otherwise be considered insane and punitive, contrarian analysis is our only hope. So it is with the climate “crisis.” The most powerful and destructive perception in the world today is that using fossil fuels will cause catastrophic climate change. This belief, marketed by every major government and corporate institution in the Western world, is the foundational premise underlying a policy agenda of stunning indifference to the aspirations of ordinary people.

The war on fossil fuel is a war on freedom, prosperity, pluralism, independence, national sovereignty, world peace, domestic tranquility, and, most ironically, the environment itself. It is a war of rich against poor, the privileged against the disadvantaged, corporate monopolies against competitive upstarts, Malthusians against optimists, regulators against innovators, and authoritarians against freedom-loving people everywhere.

But this war cannot be won unless the perception is maintained. If fossil fuel is allowed to compete against other energy alternatives for customers as a vital and growing part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy, this authoritarian political agenda falls apart.

It is reasonable to question the assertion that eliminating fossil fuels will inevitably result in an impoverished society subject to punitive restrictions on individual behavior. But the numbers are compelling and can be distilled to two indisputable facts: First, as noted, fossil fuel continues to provide over 80 percent of all energy consumed worldwide. Second, if every person living on planet Earth were to consume half as much energy per year as the average American currently consumes, global energy production would need to double. Recognizing these two immutable facts should make it clear that nothing is going to stop the Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Brazilians, Nigerians, or Bangladeshis from developing every source of energy they possibly can. Just those seven nations account for half the world’s population. Will they stop developing energy until they at least achieve half the per capita energy consumption that Americans currently enjoy? Not a chance.

Regardless of what we conclude regarding climate science, an all-of-the-above energy strategy is the nonnegotiable destiny of the world. We must adapt, and set an example of clean and ultra-efficient gas and oil technologies that the world is willing to follow.

That is the message that Exxon Mobil, Shell, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and BP should be conveying to California and the world.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

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