Fossil Fuels: The Greenest Energy

1,128,632 Views
Apr 21, 2016

To make earth cleaner, greener and safer, which energy sources should humanity rely on? Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress explains how modern societies have cleaned up our water, air and streets using the very energy sources you may not have expected--oil, coal and natural gas.

The more fossil fuel, the more clean water people have access to, the better the sanitation, and the better the air.

  • Studies show that as a society’s fossil fuel use increases, life expectancy and access to water go up, while air pollution and deaths due to climate go down.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

Studies show that as a society’s fossil fuel use increases, life expectancy, access to water, and air quality improve.  

  • Studies show that as a society’s fossil fuel use increases, life expectancy and access to water go up, while air pollution and deaths due to climate go down.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

We’ve been told that fossil fuels are polluting the air. Actually, innovative use of fossil fuels makes cleaner air possible.

  • According to WHO, approximately 7 million people worldwide died prematurely from air pollution in 2012. Poorer countries—those with less access to fossil fuels—were by far the worst affected. Countries that had greater access to fossil fuels were able to use anti-pollution technology to drastically improve air quality.View Source
  • The number of deaths annually due to indoor air pollution (around 4 million) is between 50 to 250 times more than the total deaths blamed on climate change.View Source
  • Studies show that as a society’s fossil fuel use increases, life expectancy and access to water go up, while air pollution and deaths due to climate go down.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

Want people to have more access to clean water? There’s one thing that makes that possible: fossil fuels. 

  • Increased fossil fuel use leads to greater access to clean water.View Source
  • Energy produced by fossil fuels allows industrialized nations to separate sewage and clean drinking water, making widespread water sanitation and distribution possible.View Source
  • Studies show that as a society’s fossil fuel use increases, life expectancy and access to water go up, while air pollution and deaths due to climate go down.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

Biofuels increase food prices, hurting the poor. Fossil fuels are the one fuel source proven to lift millions out of poverty. 

  • Food prices have increased as biofuel production has increased.View Source
  • Increasing food prices hurt the poor the most, as they have the least additional disposable income.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

The increase in use of fossil fuels has corresponded with the decrease of global malnutrition and undernourishment.

  • Industrialization powered by fossil fuels has helped dramatically reduce infant mortality rates around the globe. China's infant mortality rate dropped 70% since 1970. India's infant mortality rate dropped 58% since 1970. Global malnutrition and undernourishment has dropped 40% since 1990.View Source
  • Studies show that as a society’s fossil fuel use increases, life expectancy and access to water go up, while air pollution and deaths due to climate go down.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

Increasing energy access through fossil fuels has drastically reduced the infant mortality rate across the globe. 

  • Industrialization powered by fossil fuels has helped dramatically reduce infant mortality rates around the globe. China's infant mortality rate dropped 70% since 1970. India's infant mortality rate dropped 58% since 1970. Global malnutrition and undernourishment has dropped 40% since 1990.View Source
  • Studies show that as a society’s fossil fuel use increases, life expectancy and access to water go up, while air pollution and deaths due to climate go down.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

Climate change alarmists claim that increasing CO2 increases hurricane frequency and intensity. Then why has neither happened?

  • Research shows that hurricane frequency is actually decreasing.View Source
  • Hurricane energy levels have not increased since 1970.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

Are fossil fuels destroying the environment? Decreasing CO2 levels harms plant growth and thus would reduce the food supply.

  • Decreasing CO2 atmospheric concentration has been shown to harm plant growth and production.View Source
  • Reducing plant growth and production would harm the world's food supply and increase food prices, which would hit the poor and developing countries the hardest.View Source
  • Related reading: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet – Alex EpsteinView Source
  • Related reading: Climate Change Reconsidered – S. Fred Singer, Craig IdsoView Source

What if I told you that someone had developed an energy source that could help us solve our biggest environmental challenges, purify our water and air, make our cities and homes more sanitary, and keep us safe from potential catastrophic climate change? What if I also told you that this energy source was cheap, plentiful, and reliable?

Well, there is such a source. You probably know it as fossil fuel. Oil. Natural gas. Coal.

But wait? Don’t fossil fuels pollute our environment and make our climate unlivable? That, of course, is what we’re told…and what our children are taught. But let’s look at the data. Here’s a graph you’ve probably never seen: the correlation between use of fossil fuels and access to clean water. More fossil fuel. More clean water. Am I saying the more we that we have used fossil fuel, the cleaner our water has become? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

In the developed world, we take clean water for granted. We turn on a tap and it’s there. But getting it there takes a massive amount of energy. Think of the man-made reservoirs, the purification plants, the network of pipes. In the undeveloped world, it’s a much different story. They lack the energy, so they lack clean water. More fossil fuel. More clean water.

The same is true of sanitation. By the use of cheap, plentiful, and reliable energy from fossil fuels, we have made our environment cleaner. Take a look at this graph. More fossil fuel. Better sanitation.

Okay, what about air quality? Here’s a graph of the air pollution trends in the United States over the last half century based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency. Note the dramatic downward trend in emissions, even though we use more fossil fuel than ever. How was this achieved? Above all, by using anti-pollution technology powered by…fossil fuel: oil, natural gas and coal.

But even without modern pollution control technology, fossil fuel makes our air cleaner. Indoor pollution—caused by burning a fire inside your house, cabin, hut or tent to cook and keep warm—was a deadly global problem until the late 19th century when cheap kerosene, a fossil fuel byproduct, became available in America and Europe. Indoor pollution is still a major issue in the developing world today. The best solution? Fossil fuel.

And now we come to the biggest fossil fuel concern of all—global warming. On this very sensitive topic we need to get our terms straight: There is a big difference between mild global warming and catastrophic global warming. We can all agree on that, right?  The issue isn’t: does burning fossil fuel have some warming impact? It does. The issue is: is the climate warming dangerously fast?

In 1986 NASA climate scientist James Hansen—one of the world’s most prominent critics of the use of fossil fuels—predicted that “if current trends are unchanged,” temperatures would rise 2 to 4 degrees in the first decade of the 2000s. But as you can see from this graph, since 2000 the trend line is essentially flat—little or no warming in the last 15 years. That’s probably why we hear much less talk about “global warming” and much more talk about “climate change.”

Has this “climate change” made our world more dangerous? The key statistic here, one that is, unfortunately, almost never mentioned, is “climate-related deaths,” that is, how many people die each year from a climate-related cause, including droughts, floods, storms, and extreme temperatures. In the last eighty years, as CO2 emissions have rapidly escalated, the annual rate of climate-related deaths worldwide has rapidly declined -- by 98%.

The reason is that the energy from fossil fuel has allowed the developed world to build a durable civilization, one highly resilient to extreme heat, extreme cold, floods, storms, and so on. The developing world—where natural disasters can still wreak terrible havoc—would like the chance to do the same. But to do that they will need a lot more energy. The cheapest, fastest and easiest way to get that energy is from fossil fuels.

In sum, fossil fuels don’t take a naturally safe environment and make it dangerous; they empower us to take a naturally dangerous environment and make it cleaner and safer.

I’m Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress for Prager University.

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