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Dear Daniel Yergin: We Need Alex Epstein at CERAWeek (‘this is John Galt speaking …’)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- January 14, 2020

[Editor Note: Advertising for the premier energy conference CERAWeek 2020 (March 9–13) is in full swing. Several years ago, Daniel Yergin was urged to invite Alex Epstein to present the moral case for fossil fuels. Today, with fossil fuels on the ascent, and a distracted industry engaged in greenwashing, it is past time to feature the world’s leading energy philosopher. My post from four years ago on this subject is updated below.]

“If good and evil are measured by the standard of human well-being and human progress, we must conclude that the fossil fuel industry is not a necessary evil to be restricted but a superior good to be liberated.”

“We don’t need green energy–we need humanitarian energy.”

– Alex Epstein, “At CERAWeek Fossil Fuel Leaders Should Make A Moral Case For Their Industry,” Forbes.com., February 18, 2016.

For many years, even decades, I have noted Daniel Yergin’s political bias at the annual CERA conference here in Houston. Nonindustry speakers have routinely been climate alarmists and anti-fossil fuel proponents, picked from both the government and the nonprofit sector. One of many examples was Eileen Claussen, founder and past head of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (now the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions), who made it her mission to soften up the oil and gas industry to climate alarmism. Yergin gave her the microphone at the CERA conference to do just that.

The list of the bad guys and gals would be very long — and very short on fossil-fuel champions. I have never been invited to speak; neither has anyone from CATO or CEI or other free-market think tanks to my knowledge. And think of what a climate pro like Judith Curry could do, telling the industry that the climate models are running way too hot and climate sensitivity estimates should be coming down–good news given that the fossil-fuel horses are way out of the barn.

How about an enlivening energy/climate debate at CERAWeek with, say, Alex Epstein versus John Holdren? Let the crowd see who has the better arguments–and who is really the humanitarian.

In any case, CERAWeek needs greater energy realism and less energy romance. The fundamental reasons that mineral-based energies are chosen over their inferior (dilute, intermittent, cumbersome rivals), namely wind and solar for power generation; electricity for long-distance vehicles, should be explained.

Landing Smilean (as in Vaclav Smil) insights about fundamental energy density and land-use requirements for politically favored energies is not too much to ask. He could also pronounce on the quixotic quest for phasing out fossil fuels futile–just basic mathematics there.

Alex Epstein

Alex Epstein’s above-referenced column at Forbes remains essential today. His special message for CERA and its dues paying members is to educate, not placate. Seek the moral high ground for natural gas, coal, and oil. Slam the door on the Green New Deal. Stop compromising.

Here are some more salient quotations from Epstein’s Forbes piece, referenced above.

“In a low-price environment where profit margins are slim to non-existent, an industry needs to be as free from destructive government controls as possible–and yet the industry faces the threat of unprecedented government controls. For its own sake and for the sake of billions of people’s lives it energizes, the industry needs to vigorously fight back against the anti-fossil fuel effort–and do so on moral grounds.”

“The fossil fuel industry is not a necessary evil, it is a life-enhancing good–and it needs to make that case loud and clear this election season.”

“Today’s catastrophists conveniently ignore that, 35 years ago, they predicted planetary destruction today–and that in fact not only have fossil fuels provided 81.5% more life-giving energy than they did back then, our planet has become a far better place for human beings to live.”

“Predictions that increasing atmospheric CO2 from .03% to .04% would cause runaway warming were met by the reality that CO2 causes mild, manageable and arguably desirable warming— and certainly a desirable increase in plant growth.”

“If good and evil are measured by the standard of human well-being and human progress, we must conclude that the fossil fuel industry is not a necessary evil to be restricted but a superior good to be liberated.”

“The green philosophy is a philosophy squarely opposed to energy growth, since all forms of energy and productivity entail significantly impacting–transforming–the planet to meet human needs. It is, therefore, an anti-human philosophy. It should be rejected and be replaced by the humanist philosophy, which seeks to maximize human well-being and recognizes that transforming our environment, done rationally, is not a vice but a virtue.”

“It is morally irresponsible and practically devastating for the fossil fuel industry to legitimize and compromise with the moral movement against its existence. It should instead make the moral, humanitarian case for fossil fuels–to the public, to its employees, and to politicians.”

“The 2016 election presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime energy opportunity–and energy danger. There is no middle ground. There can be no more standing down. It’s time to stand up.”

John Galt Broadcast Time at CERA?

The microphone belongs in the hands of Alex Epstein, arguably the leading energy philosopher in the US and world today. It does not belong in the hands of energy statists or energy apologists from within the industry. Their time is up.

One Comment for “Dear Daniel Yergin: We Need Alex Epstein at CERAWeek (‘this is John Galt speaking …’)”

  1. Mark  

    The Mont Pelerin Society has a competition that may be of interest-

    “In September of this year, MPS will have its bi-annual General Meeting in Oslo, Norway. There are two great opportunities for young scholars. First, MPS will conduct its F. A. Hayek essay contest. Winning that contest in the early 1990s was how I attended my first MPS meeting in Cannes, France. The essay contest is open to scholars under the age of 36.

    In addition to the essay contest, for the past several years due to the initiative of Ben Powell, MPS has developed a excellent young scholars program. Please consider applying to present a paper as part of this program, the deadline is May 15, 2020.”



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