“By explicitly holding human life as his standard of value, Epstein argues that what makes the industry virtuous is its ability to improve the life of human beings. While other books may offer a defense of the industry by pointing to economic or political benefits, Epstein goes on offense and shows that the fossil fuel industry is actually good.”
“We—the men and women in the fossil fuel industry—promote human flourishing.”
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels has the power to convince open-minded readers (and maybe open some closed minds) about the exciting utility of oft-criticized oil, natural gas, coal, and hybrids therein. The reader will come away with a deeper understanding of fossil fuels and a greater appreciations for the people behind the fossil fuel industries. The book connects the vast array of complex, technical challenges solved by hundreds of thousands of workers to the ultimate challenge: advancing human life. The author, Alex Epstein, seamlessly connects fossil fuels to human beings’ ability not only to survive, but to continually improve our lives—and thrive.
By explicitly holding human life as his standard of value, Epstein argues that what makes the industry virtuous is its ability to improve the life of human beings. While other books may offer a defense of the industry by pointing to economic or political benefits, Epstein goes on offense and shows that the fossil fuel industry is actually good.
As someone who works in the industry, I’m told by others that I’ve “sold my soul” and am “working for the devil.” So it is really nice—no, it’s awesome—to read the positive arguments in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. I found the arguments so clarifying that I, in turn, feel empowered to share them.
In fact, if I could personally place this book in the hands of everyone who works in the fossil fuel industry, I would. Short of that, I will do my best to convince you to purchase a copy.
Thanks to fossil fuels, every American today lives better than the previous centuries’ royalty—we live longer, we live healthier, and we accomplish more.
Fossil fuels make it possible for us to live increasingly better lives by providing us with energy for anything the human mind can create. We drive and fly where we want because we’ve mastered the production and use of crude oil-based transportation fuels. We are instantaneously connected to friends and loved ones across the globe on an electronic network powered by coal and natural gas. We cool and heat our homes, refrigerate our food, and power our hospitals on the same thing—fossil fuels.
The fossil fuel industries are massive producers of 88 percent of mankind’s energy in every possible imaginable environment—from deepwater drilling in 10,000 feet of water in the middle of the ocean to conventional oil production in the Arctic Circle. This can make it hard to step back and view the fossil fuel industry as a whole, but this new, complete perspective is exactly what is needed in order to realize the immense value the industry creates.
In an industry made up of scientists and engineers, it’s easy to get caught up in data miss the big picture. Epstein, a philosopher by training, weaves together important historical data to tell a heroic story, not only of fossil fuels, but of human progress. For example, Epstein abandons jargon and explains in laymen’s terms the challenging work our industry does:
“[T]here is a big challenge to using fossil fuels for energy. These quantities of coal, oil and gas aren’t lying around to be plucked. They are hidden and trapped underground—sometimes thousands and thousands of feet underground, often in forms, such as being trapped in stone, that are difficult to get out even if you know where they are. Fortunately for us, the fossil fuel industry is very, very good at using technology to extract these hidden, trapped and otherwise useless materials… and turning them into the energy of life.”
I’ve never heard my work explained in such a clear and concise manner before. Think about it: drilling and fracking for shale oil and shale gas that is literally trapped in rock, thousands and thousands of feet underground. Plus, we can’t actually see where the oil and gas is, so we have to use super-advanced 3D and 4D seismic imaging to peer “through” the layers of the earth. And then, we take this oil and gas, process it, transform it into gasoline, and sell it to consumers for less than a gallon of milk!
This book empowers members of the industry by clearly identifying our role in making today’s high living standards possible. Yet, today, we’re facing an unprecedented battle from people that want to drive the fossil fuel industry into the ground. Epstein’s book arms us with new ways to think about the benefits of our work and new ways to combat our most vicious detractors.
Consider these popular misconceptions:
We are told by loud voices—politicians, scientists, environmentalists—that we are “destroying the planet.” I know it is exhausting to defend yourself against the mass media, and, from personal experience, it is more exhausting to defend yourself against the knee-jerk accusations of friends and family.
If you understand and internalize the arguments in this book, you will find it empowering to stand up for yourself and your industry. Better yet, instead of taking a defensive position, you’ll take an offensive position. Next time someone tells you that you’re “destroying the planet,” you can confidently explain how you’re actually “improving the planet,” because your work is the driver behind the ever-improving standard of living of human beings across the globe.
The arguments made in this book will give you the answer to this question:
“This book is about morality, about right and wrong. To me, the question of what to do about fossil fuels and any other moral issue comes down to: What will promote human life? What will promote human flourishing—realizing the full potential of life?”
We—the men and women in the fossil fuel industry—promote human flourishing.
I hope that all my colleagues will not only be able to make the moral case for fossil fuels, but be proud to make the moral case for fossil fuels.
If we don’t stand up for our own industry, who will?
Erin Connors (B.S., Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin) is a Machinery Engineer in an upstream department of a major integrated oil and gas company–and darn proud of it.
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