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The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  1,506 ratings  ·  263 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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May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
With a provocative title like this how could you not give this a read? Epstein, the founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, makes the case that not only should we not condemn fossil fuels, but embrace them. I’ll admit I wasn’t convinced by every argument (for example, arguing that correlation equals causation), but I was still persuaded that fossil fuels are a boon to society, even now. This book also goes into length into how we can mitigate the harms of fossil fuels and reduce warming w ...more
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
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
Douglas Wilson
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, politics
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.
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
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
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was loaned to me by a coworker that wanted me to read it. It seemed like an interesting premise, so I put my Greco-Roman studies on hold and read through this rather quickly. I must admit that the book was quite good. It kept me interested the whole way through, and the author did a good job of keeping it concise and full of relevant data.

My interest in climatology, and all the propaganda and rhetoric that often surrounds the subject, is not that great I readily admit. I will say thoug
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
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
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
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
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 d
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 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.

I found this book to have a variety of expected flaws that one might see as stereotypical of those who are ‘skeptical’ of man-made climate change. But I was also was not expecting such a clearheaded, well-constructed thesis for the moral case for fossil fuels.

While it would be great to use wind, solar, and bio-fuels, or other types of alternative energy as opposed to coal, natural gas, and oil, he basically says the alternative sources are not even close to being ready for prime time—no
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
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
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
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
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. ...more
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.
Terrence D.
May 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...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.
Kyle Weil
Jan 08, 2021 rated it did not like it
An incredible demonstration of how to sound convincing using contradictory arguments and straw man fallacies, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels is a scathing rebuttal of the environmental movement filled with pages upon pages of catastrophic global warming denialism. I do give some respect to Epstein for sounding semi-convincing at times through the use of studies and (faulty) logical reasoning; however, his argument and writing overall is deeply flawed and inaccurate.

Usually, I try to be polite
Ben De Bono
I'm not going to give this book a star rating. I suspect that people will begin to take sides based on the title alone and proceed to endorse or dismiss reviews based on how well the star rating lines up with that initial preconception. It's really a shame that this issue is that knee-jerk for so many. It's vital that we get it right. If someone like Epstein is wrong and we're truly facing catastrophic climate change then we have to take immediate action no matter the ancillary political issues. ...more
Bill Walsh
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very important book. It’s blowing some of my paradigms. Very well reasoned argument.
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