A Free-Market Energy Blog

Let’s Go Brendan! (fossil fuels to the rescue, explains SPIKED political editor)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- November 30, 2021

“There’s only one problem with this rash, hyperbolic onslaught on fossil fuels: everything about it is wrong. Far from destroying life on Earth, our discovery and exploitation of these fuels improved it enormously.”

“The hostility to fossil fuels seems increasingly to be driven by misanthropy rather than reason; by an elitist feeling of revulsion for the gains of modernity rather than by a rational assessment of the undoubted problems humankind still faces.” (Brendan O’Neill, SPIKED, November 12, 2021)

Alex Epstein, president and founder of Center for Industrial Progress, has not been alone in his quest to reframe the climate/energy debate in humanist terms. Brendan O’Neill, chief political writer of SPIKED, whose recent “Keep Burning Those Fossil Fuels” came to my attention, has been beating the fossil fuel/human betterment drum for some time. Back in 2014, for example, he stated in Hands Off the Human Footprint!:

Every human activity is now judged according to how much carbon it emits. Flying, working, eating, development and even reproducing – people’s decision to create new human life – are measured in ‘tonnes of CO2 emitted’…. The carbon judgment on our daily activities has replaced God’s judgement … of original carbon sin…. Stop carbon-calculating our lives, and let us celebrate people’s activities in human terms, recognising them as good, creative, explorative, industrious, or simply as making people happy. [1]

And here is the latest from O’Neill. “Mankind’s use of coal, oil and gas is a very wonderful thing,” he begins. Key quotations from his essay follow:

  • Far from destroying life on Earth, our discovery and exploitation of these fuels improved it enormously.
  • If it wasn’t for humankind’s liberation of the ancient sunlight trapped in coal, or our burning of the petroleum that accrued from chemical reactions in the seas of the prehistoric era, modernity as we know it simply would not exist.
  • Fossil fuels gifted us the wealth, comfort and liberties we in the West enjoy, and they’re doing the same right now for emerging countries like China, India and Brazil.
  • According to the 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy, no less less than 84 per cent of global energy comes from fossil fuels. Oil supplies 33 per cent of world energy, coal supplies 27 per cent, and gas supplies 24 per cent.
  • There is something genuinely bizarre, if not outright perverse, about a world in which we are educated in schools and instructed by the political class to feel fear and hatred for the fuels that underpin almost every facet of our lives. Fuels that energise production, consumption, travel, health.
  • The relentless demonisation of fossil fuels reaches to the very top of political life. The great and the good have spent the past fortnight at COP26 wondering out loud when fossil fuels might be phased out.
  • Climate change is a problem, but a ‘middling one’, as Bjorn Lomborg describes it. It threatens nothing as horrendous as a sudden reduction in fossil-fuel use…. Progressives should fear the ideology of Net Zero far more than the burning of coal and oil.
  • … burning fossil fuels has helped to protect us from climatic events and ‘weather of mass destruction’…. The truth is that we would be facing far worse environmental conditions and living conditions if we hadn’t used as much fossil fuel as we have….
  • Just look at China and India today. Sniffy Westerners, wallowing in the gains and comforts of the industrialisation their own nations underwent two centuries ago, look at China and India as bleak, black carbon nightmares. Think again.
  • Globally, fossil-fuel use has risen enormously since 1980. Between 1980 and 2012 worldwide use of fossil fuels rose by 80 per cent. And much of this was down to the rise of China, India and other countries as emerging industrial powers. These nations continue to account for much of the growth in fossil-fuel consumption.
  • The 2020 Statistical Review of World Energy notes that China had been responsible for a full three-quarters of the growth of energy consumption in the previous year, followed by India and Indonesia. China is also a leading player in the growing demand for oil….
  • In China and India, just as in Western countries in the past, the huge hike in fossil-fuel consumption has coincided with a massive growth in life expectancy…. If we kept fossil fuels ‘in the ground’, as noisy green doom-mongers insist we must, life in China and India would be a great deal harder and more unpleasant than it currently is.
  • The richer a country becomes, the more it can afford to focus on cleaning up its natural environment as well as lifting its populace out of poverty. Fossil-fuel consumption did not create a world of filth and disaster; it created the conditions in which we have far greater leeway to master our own living conditions and the environment.
  • The hostility to fossil fuels seems increasingly to be driven by misanthropy rather than reason; by an elitist feeling of revulsion for the gains of modernity rather than by a rational assessment of the undoubted problems humankind still faces.
  • … our unlocking of the long-hidden wonders of fossil fuels, and our use of this furious energy to make the world anew, has been the most important thing humanity has done thus far.
  • The modern rage against fossil fuels is at root an irrational turn against modernity itself, and against the human endeavour that made it possible.
  • … fossil-fuel consumption should not be demonised and it certainly should not be halted. And it should also not be merely tolerated, viewed as an unfortunate necessity in a world that needs energy. No, it should be encouraged, it should be cheered, and it should be celebrated as the modern wonder that it is.

[1] The early work of Brendan O’Neill and Alex Epstein (see their podcast here) was brought to my attention by Pierre Desrochers. Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy


  1. Richard Greene  

    I read the article in Spiked first.
    Good decision to include it here.
    Better decision to edit — the original
    article was too long.


  2. Donald Braswell  

    AND, we’re due for another ice age soon. A little more CO2 should prevent that recurring nightmare.
    I’d much rather lose a little Beach front property than have an ice porch from Montana to Texas…


  3. Hodor  

    Nothing wrong with ice ages.
    First, we are in one, as there there is year-round ice at the poles. We’re not now in a glaciation as happened about 18,000 years ago. Life went on just fine then, as the humans of that time were smart enough not to camp out for, say, 100 years in front of the glacially advancing ice.

    A new glaciation would have the consequence of obliterating some of NYC. With the sincerest geo-engineering efforts of the world’s best minds, that could be made into all of NYC.

    Further, another glaciation would increase the size of my hunting lands.

    — Hodor


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