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Debate: Bill McKibben vs. Alex Epstein on Fossil Fuels

By -- July 30, 2012

On November 5, I will be debating Bill McKibben, considered “world’s leading environmentalist” by some, on the proposition: “Fossil fuels are a risk to the planet.” I will be arguing that fossil fuels dramatically improve the planet for human beings.

This debate came about at the suggestion of MasterResource’s own Rob Bradley, who pointed me to McKibben’s article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” , which received many rave reviews and not nearly enough criticism. My Center for Industrial Progress colleague (physicist) Eric Dennis and I decided to respond to the article with a video that addresses what we think is the root of the problem–not any given fact but bad thinking methodology. The problem that makes McKibben’s piece possible is that Americans have never been taught to distinguish science from pseudoscience–how to think critically about scientific claims.

At the end of the debate, I challenged McKibben to a debate, offering him $10,000 and an audience at Duke University. To his credit, after some haggling over the topic, he accepted. It should be a great illustration of how the philosophy of environmentalism stacks up against the philosophy of industrial progress. Stay tuned for more.


  1. Conrad  

    I hope it’s live streamed.


  2. rbradley  

    If it can be pulled off, this will be a major event. What is very interesting–and a challenge to McKibben is that his fellow Left agree that energy is the master resource. Here are some quotations from Obama science advisor John Holdren: http://www.masterresource.org/2009/12/dear-john-holdren-where-is-our-indispensable-reliable-affordable-energy/.


  3. Debate: Bill McKibben vs. Alex Epstein on Fossil Fuels | JunkScience.com  

    […] MasterResource Share this:PrintEmailMoreStumbleUponTwitterFacebookDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in baseload energy, Coal, Oil and gas, Tar sands and tagged co2 emissions, dioxycarbophobia, natural gas, oilsands, shale oil. Bookmark the permalink. ← New paper shows Antarctic temperatures haven’t increased over past 500 years […]


  4. Richard  

    Awesome I’m anxious to listen.


  5. Andrew  

    Can’t wait to see how industrial progress mops the floor with wanton environmentalist douchebaggery.


  6. dakotadude  

    In my many discussions, both public and private, with professional environmental activists I’ve learned one important thing. The moment that you’ve bested them on any single topic they’ll change the subject and act like the previous subject which you just demonstrated their ignorance never happened. Good luck, keep your head clear and let me know if you need to borrow my chain saw to cut this enviro down to size.


  7. Andrew  

    Is this weird? I almost get nervous myself before I hear my intellectual hero perform a debate. But after listening to Alex in previous debates, notably with Greenpeace, I’m certain that Alex’s opponent will not know what’s gonna hit them. Simply put, few others in industry and academia are making the kind of strong moral case, and the greens are used to having the moral upper hand.


  8. Recent Energy and Environmental News – 6th August 2012 « PA Pundits – International  

    […] interesting debate scheduled between Alex Epstein and Bill […]


  9. Twitter disappears Bill McKibben commentary on #poisonedweather | Watts Up With That?  

    […] of climate risk on Nov. 5–the Center for Industrial Progress challenged me, and I accepted. http://www.masterresource.org/2012/07/debate-350-orgs-bill-mckibben-vs-cips-alex-epstein/ As you can see, the commenters there are convinced that my clock wil be cleaned, and perhaps […]


  10. T Stone  

    Alex, I eagerly await your debate with Mr. McKibben. I have just read his article. As a young man and college student in the ’80’s, I subscribed to Rolling Stone magazine because it was “cool”. Fortunately I have grown out of the misconception that what other people think of me and what I read matters, hence I gave up my subscription more than twenty years ago. I can see now that it was smart to have saved myself the money of that subscription over the years. Unfortunately I only recently let my subscription to National Geographic lapse. My point is, I don’t believe I have ever witnessed more profound cognitive dissonance, logical fallacy and blind assertion than in Mr. McKibben’s article. It is incredibly astounding how upside down and backwards his logic is. Thank you and your colleagues for this website, the Center for Industrial Progress and all your other endeavors, including your “Occupy” Youtube videos. Keep fighting the good fight, looking forward to Nov. 5!


  11. ilma630  

    I look forward to this immensely.

    On the views of the role of CO2 in contributing to warming, there is of course the view (principally by the Sky Dragon Slayers) that CO2 has zero contribution to warming, that is does NOT ‘trap’ heat, but acts as a thermal conductor taking heat away from the surface to the top of the atmosphere where it’s radiated out. The Prof Nahle experiment at Monterrey confirmed Woods original experiment that the greenhouse effect does not exist.


  12. cm  

    Alex, I appreciate that you are using this debate to warn us about the use of pseudoscience in the mainstream media. I do have a question for you. Since you are using the claim that we live longer today because of oil – do you have accurate, proven studies that to back up your claim. Or did you just use pseudoscience yourself?


  13. West  

    You might want to let the folks at Duke know you are coming:


  14. Alex Epstein to Debate Bill McKibben on Whether Fossil Fuels Improve or Harm the Planet - The Objective Standard  

    […] didn’t think it was quite that simple. He and his colleague, physicist Eric Dennis, responded with a lengthy explanation of how McKibben’s article is riddled with “bad thinking […]


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