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The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  1,115 ratings  ·  198 reviews
A sure-to-be-controversial defense of the  fossil fuel industry

Conventional wisdom says fossil fuels are an unsustainable form of energy that is destroying our planet. But Alex Epstein shows that if we look at the big picture, the much-hated fossil fuel industry is dramatically improving our planet by making it a far safer and richer place.
The key difference between a h
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published November 13th 2014 by Portfolio
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4.13  · 
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 ·  1,115 ratings  ·  198 reviews

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L.A. Starks
May 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, if you only read one non-fiction book in the next five years, this should be the one.

Epstein, an outsider with a background in philosophy, reframes the energy debate in terms of standards of value: the "non-impact" group (traditionally called environmentalists) vs. the group whose highest value is human life, and thus improving human life for all 7+ billion of us on the planet. So, pick your side.

He backs his arguments with a wealth of detailed facts, sound lo
Matthew Ciarvella
Dec 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2014
I really like reading books that express viewpoints opposed to my own. My hope is that they will contain valuable insight that will cause me to revise my thoughts to form a better opinion.

Here's what I learned from this book:

Solar and wind are stupid and unreliable and are a waste of time.

Using fossil fuels is wonderful!

Environmentalists are bad.

Catastrophic climate change is a myth.

Using fossil fuels is FREEDOM and VERY AMERICAN.

Alex Epstein likes Brazilian jujitsu a lot and mentions it on two
Mar 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
I'm going to do this review a bit differently. I just started and am in chapter 2, but I'm going to write my impressions along the way because there is a lot of stuff happening. I'll update my star rating as well as I go on.

I need to start by saying that Epstein and I actually agree on a few things so far. I do, like he does, believe that the promise of solar and wind are being dramatically overstated and the downsides basically ignored, such as the frightening pollution going on in China in the
Douglas Wilson
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, science
What an outstanding book. I really enjoyed this inversion of all the bromides that the chattering classes think they are supposed to teach the rest of us. First rate book.
Sep 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: climate
If George Orwell's 1984 and Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged could produce offspring, the result would be this book, "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels." There's lots to criticize about this book, but before I do, I should mention that is does contain some good points, which makes it worth reading. In particular, he describes the positive attributes of coal, oil, and natural gas.

What makes coal so attractive? It is plentiful, widely distributed, easy to extract, requires little processing, and easy to tr
Donald Plugge
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it

It is too bad the topic of energy has been hi-jacked by the black and white when life is actually lived in the silvers, slates and pearly grays. I start my Goodreads quest by looking at the 5 star and 1 star reviewers. For Epstein's book it was interesting to see only one 1-star review and that person appears to have missed the entire point of the book. From the 5-star side I see a trove of reviewers with phrases like "fact based", "risks and benefits", "mankind", "clarity" and even "parts per m
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
"The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe." kindle location 1814

"There were no computer problems before computers. And just as we use computers to help solve computer problems, so we can use fossil fuels to help solve f
Zachary Slayback
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"Here, in a sentence, is the moral case for fossil fuels, the single thought that can empower us to empower the world: Mankind's use of fossil fuels is supremely virtuous--because human life is the standard of value, and because using fossil fuels transforms our environment to make it wonderful for human life." pg. 209, emphasis added

If you have ever felt that you wanted to become more informed on the issue of fossil fuels but have been unable to sift through all the (hyperbolic) white noise in
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Why didn't I rate this after I first read it? I can't remember. Maybe I was too busy freaking out at how AWESOME it was! I heard Alex Epstein speak and it really restructured everything I'd heard about fossil fuel. I devoured his book in one sitting, then went back to re-read passages. I like how he focuses on the moral case, bringing philosophy in to weigh the cost of climate change.
Worth reading, even if you disagree.
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I rarely gush about a book, but this one is an exception. I, like the author, was raised in an orthodox "green" environment where everything I've ever been taught and every person I've ever known has been unequivocal: climate change is dangerous, humans are causing it, and anything but immediate action against the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions will damage the future of humanity. I never fully bought the mania around climate change, out of a gut feeling that we weren't being told the c ...more
Malin Friess
Feb 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Environmental thought leaders like Paul Ehrlich, Al Gore, and Bill McKibben have tremendous influence but they come to the wrong conclusions with fossil fuels; they exaggerate the negatives and ignore the remarkable advantages. Fossil Fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) are reliable, cheap, and abundant. Wind and Solar are intermittent and unreliable. A gallon of gasoline has 31,000 calories packed inside!

Epstein seeks to prove a moral case can be made for using even more fossil fuels. His book
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
benefits outweigh, 87% use, more use more human progress less deaths, 70’s predictions catastrophic fear of risks no rewards, no temp trend in 100 years, climate deaths fell 98% in 80 years, fear from not thought leaders, better place for human beings, controls may cause early deaths, special metals and resources for solar, most scalable nuclear, 5M deaths 32 to 30K, limiting power death risk for 1.3B, rape earth elements for wind and solar, false attrition fracking backward thinking prejudiced ...more
Beth Haynes
Excellent explanation of why fossil fuels are indispensable to human flourishing.

Literately billions of people are fed, housed, and healed because of the cheap, reliable energy provided by fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are the means by which we improve our lives and our environment. For the foreseeable future, alternatives like solar and wind, will only provide a small fraction of the world's energy needs. To deprive ourselves of fossil fuels is to condemn billions to poverty, suffering and even de
Lauren K
Jan 07, 2017 rated it did not like it
If you are going to read this book, you better think critically. And before starting, you might want to learn some statistics (if you haven’t already).

I started this book with an open mind. The first couple of chapters I actually found somewhat interesting. Epstein made me consider some valuable points. Fossil fuels have played a large role in development. Great medical care, travel, worldwide communication, useful technologies, etc, would not be able to continue if we were to just stop using f
Jacob O'connor
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
It's easy to talk about our beliefs. Living them is a whole other matter. Al Gore whipped the world into a frenzy with An Inconvenient Truth. He then took his private jet back to his 16 room mansion, switched on all the lights, and then set all the oilfields in Kuwait on fire. (I might be mixing him up with someone else on that last one). I'd call that an inconsistent truth.

The point is this. How many self-professed environmentalists have taken the steps they've asked the world to take? They pu
Jeff Yoak
This book is utterly fantastic... even better than I had hoped for. Epstein manages to integrate what holding man's life as a standard of value means with respect to evaluating the risks and benefits of fossil fuel consumption. He makes even more concession of risks than I would have been inclined to do, being less informed. That many of the claims of the environmental movement are motivated by a hatred of human action for its own sake doesn't mean that absolutely none of their claims are true. ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very compelling argument for why fossil fuels, especially highly portable ones, are essential to human development and dignity in third world and developing countries.
Nov 22, 2016 marked it as to-read
Want to get good and pissed off? Take a deep breath and maunder through the prickly garden of 5-star reviews of this book.
Marco den Ouden
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Despite claims from some climate change activists, Alex Epstein is not a climate change denier. He readily acknowledges that the climate has changed in the last century. But the change, he avers, is insignificant and manageable when you look at the big picture. From 1910 to 2010, the average global temperature has increased less than one degree Celsius. The carbon dioxide emissions over this same period increased from around 285 parts per million to 385 parts per million, an increase of 35%. Mos ...more
David Webber
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
As an engineer I can appreciate this book's fresh approach to the issues, particularly looking at the risks versus benefits of energy decisions. It has seemed to me for sometime that many people touting 'climate science' do not make any attempt to speak of the benefits/economics of continuing to use fossil fuels as a energy source while developing other methods, and that they have also underestimated our ability to adapt to climate. I feel that most complex problems have a multi-faceted solution ...more
Bpw White
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Either this is a frustratingly misleading book, or it reveals frustrating levels of sensationalism among the media, politicians, and pretty much everyone else. Either way, the experience is frustrating.

Assuming his data is correct, his direct and relatively unemotional treatment of the numbers is admirable.

That said, trying to get by dismissing solar and wind with the intermittent argument is lazy at best. I mean, batteries?

His morality argument boils down to, "let's not waste energy on non f
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Essential clarity. An indispensable guide to thinking about the issues which stand to affect humanity today and for generations to come. An unapologetic defense of industrial civilization and the means by which it is maintained and continually improved upon.

There are reasons why we depend upon oil, coal, natural gas, and not solar and wind. It is because oil, coal and natural gas are dependable sources of energy on the scale required for the best life possible to man today and for the foreseeabl
Chuck Slack
May 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is ironic to be reading this book on the day my provincial government released their climate change plan which calls for the eventual phase out of coal-generated electricity. The cheapest electricity in Alberta.

This book puts forth some interesting points. I particularly appreciated the premise of how much energy a typical American uses which is 186,000 calories per day which is equivalent to the calories to sustain 93 people! Without affordable energy where would our society be? The goal to
Abhilash Nambiar
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I never thought there was a moral case to be made for fossil fuels. But here it is and it is well done. Who would have thought fossil fuel can facilitate of all things the greening of the earth! What the so called environmental activists want is to freeze things the way they are instead of improving the earth for the sake of mankind. Alex makes the case that Fossil fuels are ethical precisely because it puts mankind first. Highly recommended.
Dec 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book lays out the philosophic and moral case for Fossil Fuels and why the ideology of "No Human Impact" is anti-human. anti-progress, and anti-life. Unfortunately too few will care to have their opinions challenged.
Terrence Daugherty
This was an incredible read. Epstein does a fantastic job exposing the misanthropy of the green movement while using airtight logic to make a moral argument for mankind's use of fossil fuels.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environmental
This book won't make you an expert, or definitively settle anything, but I found it to be eye-opening and refreshing.

Read again March 2019. Still good.
Donald Owens II
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
“Our concern for the future should not be running out of energy resources; it should be running out of the freedom to create energy resources.”

Finally! Someone is speaking sense on the energy issue. Epstein argues that nature has already provided us with a cheap, plentiful, and reliable battery to store and utilize energy, in Fossil fuels.

He insists that when anyone condemns an action as wrong, we must ask, “by what standard of value?” If your standard of value is human thriving, that will yield
Ron Housley
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
by AlexEpstein
A short book report by Ron Housley

Tag Line: Healthy Moral Choice or Dangerous Addiction

Alex Epstein has led a campaign to bring calm and levelheaded inquiry to the energy/climate activism of the last 2 decades.

We have seen from both sides of the “global warming” controversy an unacceptable excess in propagandizing, and precious little in the way of expository science. All of the panels and debates that I have listened to are one-sided and front loade
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics, business
While wealthy, uninformed elites lament the presence of oil, coal, and natural gas in our world, the genuinely poor in this world experience great plight from a lack of cheap, reliable energy. The presence of fossil fuels prolongs and enhances life where it is used. Of course precautions must be taken. This is true of all technologies. Airplane travel enables wonderful vacations and expansive business prospects, but it also exposes its travelers to tons of radiation and even kills hundreds every ...more
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