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Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas--Not Less

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The New York Times bestselling author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels draws on the latest data and new insights to challenge everything you thought you knew about the future of energy

For over a decade, philosopher and energy expert Alex Epstein has predicted that any negative impacts of fossil fuel use on our climate will be outweighed by the unique benefits of fossil fuels to human flourishing--including their unrivaled ability to provide low-cost, reliable energy to billions of people around the world, especially the world’s poorest people.

And contrary to what we hear from media “experts” about today’s “renewable revolution” and “climate emergency,” reality has proven Epstein

What does the future hold? In Fossil Future , Epstein, applying his distinctive “human flourishing framework” to the latest evidence, comes to the shocking conclusion that the benefits of fossil fuels will continue to far outweigh their side effects—including climate impacts—for generations to come. The path to global human flourishing, Epstein argues, is a combination of using more fossil fuels, getting better at “climate mastery,” and establishing “energy freedom” policies that allow nuclear and other truly promising alternatives to reach their full long-term potential.

Today’s pervasive claims of imminent climate catastrophe and imminent renewable energy dominance, Epstein shows, are based on what he calls the “anti-impact framework”—a set of faulty methods, false assumptions, and anti-human values that have caused the media’s designated experts to make wildly wrong predictions about fossil fuels, climate, and renewables for the last fifty years. Deeply researched and wide-ranging, this book will cause you to rethink everything you thought you knew about the future of our energy use, our environment, and our climate.

480 pages, Hardcover

First published May 24, 2022

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Alex Epstein

4 books108 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 168 reviews
Profile Image for Pauline Stout.
183 reviews7 followers
May 12, 2023
Warning, I am going to be very negative in this review. I am also going to spoil a lot of the main points in order to point out how absurd they are so if you want to read book than don’t read this review. I’m going to heartily say to not bother reading the book though. It was a waste of my time and it’s going to be a waste of your time.

The basic premise of this book is that in order to save humanity from climate change and increase the quality of life for humanity what needs to be done is use more fossil fuels instead of less. And not just use less fossil fuels, remove almost all regulations from their use.

I can see that the author is passionate about the subject but this book may actively go against his cause. I’m trying to be diplomatic in my review of this and oh boy is it dang near impossible. It’s been a long time since I’ve read worse logic and reasoning in a book. I didn’t know the arguments in here were ones that people actually use in real life. I thought they were fake arguments.
Some of the gems are:

- Who cares if global warming increases the planet’s temperature. Air conditioning exists and that totally cancels that out.
- Global warming affects things more in the winter than summer and we all want it to be warmer in the winter am I right?
- Rising global temperatures will mean that people will stop freezing to death and that’s a good thing.
- Stronger storms aren’t a big deal just build sturdier buildings.
- The infrastructure needed to support green energy is cost prohibitive to build. But drought isn’t a bad thing because we can totally afford to build a bunch of irrigation infrastructure to fix that. And aid can always be shipped in if we can’t that totally isn’t a burden on other countries.
- Wildfires aren’t a big deal. Just increase logging! Wildfires can’t happen if you cut the trees down.
- Increased CO2 in the air is a good thing because plants eat that so more CO2 equals more plants.
- We don’t have to worry about runaway climate change because we definitely will invent new ways to deal with climate change in the future. Don’t know what ways but I’m sure it will happen trust me.
- Green energy isn’t viable but if it was the system would oppose it. Okay I have no proof but I’m gonna say that it would be anyway trust me.
-Oceans can be mastered even though we know almost nothing about them. But if it can’t be who cares the land is more important than the ocean.
- If the climate gets too bad in one part of the world people can just move to a better part. Also climate refugees are barely going to be a thing.
- Dangerous thunderstorms and hurricanes aren’t all that bad after all the setting can be very romantic.
- Experts about climate change might be wrong because they were wrong about slavery being a good thing right?

The author claims that we need to listen to experts in their fields for knowledge in subjects and then says that he will only accept that you are a climate expert if you agree with him. Dismisses the opinions of everyone that is worried about climate change and climate disaster as being biased but the people that are more moderate or agree with him are definitely correct and not biased in any way. If you support green energy in any way you can’t be trusted.

Just about the only thing I agree with him on is that we need to find a way to increase the use of nuclear energy.

Also this book is way too long. It would have been so much shorter if he didn’t repeat himself so often. I don’t need a chapter recap in the middle of a chapter. I just read it. You don’t need to summarize previous chapters multiple times. I started to feel like I was going to be quizzed at the end.

I’m almost convinced that this is some kind of elaborate satire/troll that I’m just not getting. I refuse to believe that someone can be this stupid. I won’t believe that someone can be this stupid. Writing this right after finishing the book I may come back later to edit or add to make my point more clear. As of now I give this one star. Don’t read this. It’s not worth your time.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for mckensea.
47 reviews10 followers
May 15, 2022
How this book was allowed to be published is beyond me. If I could get it a zero I would. Not only are the arguments against climate change and for fossil fuels old and tired, they have been dealt with over and over again. We are at a time where we need climate advocacy and for people to be given proper information on what's going on and still you allow THIS to be published? This is basically a conspiracy theory as so much of the "science" is cherry-picked and completely inaccurate. Whoever allowed this book to go to publication should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.
Profile Image for Louis Le Marquand.
6 reviews2 followers
June 4, 2022
This is a superb book, a “must read” for any honest free-thinking truth-seeker who is concerned about climate change, energy policy and the human environment.

Controversially, Alex argues that the designated experts for researching, synthesising, disseminating and evaluating climate change and energy policy have failed to assess the full context of fossil fuel production. They have greatly exaggerated their negatives sides effects whilst minimising or ignoring their life-saving benefits, this has perpetuated for decades.

We are today living in a climate renaissance; over the last 100yrs, as our use of fossil fuels has greatly intensified, the number of climate related deaths has decreased 98%, a statistic omitted by the UN’s IPCC. We have never been safer from climate related disasters, thanks to our capacity to use cost-effective energy to power machines and make use safer from climate.

At present, only fossil fuels are capable of providing low cost energy which can be scaled to billions of people and be supplied on demand, which is why despite 40 years of aggressive subsidies and government mandates in support of “renewables,” fossil fuels continue to comprise 80%+ of the worlds total energy production and are still growing.

Alex argues that the designated experts fail to take into consideration humanities current level of safety from climate and our ability to adapt to climate due to their incorrect framework of evaluation and an irrational moral standard - a standard of non-impact. They view todays climate as bad not because humans are suffering (which they are not) but because they see any impact on nature by humans as bad, and a world uninhabited by humans as their ideal. This explains why the green movements have opposed the only possible alternatives to fossil fuels, nuclear and hydro electric power even though they don’t produce CO2. There goal is not to maximise human flourishing in nature, but to minimise our impact - any impact - on nature. If a policy of net zero was actually implement it would be a certain catastrophe for the human race, who’s lives desperately depend on access to cost-effective, reliable energy in order to flourish.

Alex introduces facts which have been suspiciously omitted by the designated experts and integrates them into a new framework for evaluating these issues. I challenge anyone to finish this book and not be persuaded by Alex’s arguments.

Well done Alex. If the world continues to flourish; if it chooses to jettison the anti-human standard of non-impact for a new moral standard of human flourishing, it will no doubt have been in part because of the significant contribution you have made with Fossil Future.
1 review
May 23, 2022
Not a good book. Overly long, repetitive. The Author is a bit clueless frankly. He is clearly not a scientist or an economist.

His argument seem to be the same as candlemakers in the 1800s saying that because candles were the most popular form of lighting at the time that lightbulbs would never take over and could never take over.

Claims to be balanced then only states one side of the argument while ignoring all the much stronger counter arguments.
He Ignores the findings of NASA, and every national science academy including private companies who recognise the need to cut emissions.

Not worth the money, would not recommend it, even to fossil fuel fans.
Profile Image for Gabriella Hoffman.
98 reviews43 followers
May 26, 2022
“Fossil Future” is a timely read. Epstein offers a comprehensive view of fossil fuels, arguing how the benefits far outweigh the costs. And he shows how they are deeply intertwined in our daily lives and essential for human flourishing. Essential reading. Hope others consider it and view it with an open mind.
Profile Image for Ann Bridges.
Author 7 books20 followers
June 8, 2022

If you’re like me, you’ve long tired of arguing about the data inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and insane push to eliminate fossil fuels from our lives. Yet there is no denying the dire consequences of today’s so-called green policies that are crashing economies for no apparent reason other than to justify an arbitrary, self-imposed deadline to transition into a new era of how and where we get our energy.

Fortunately, Alex Epstein’s new book Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas – Not Less was just released, and not a moment too soon.
Epstein continues his logical approach to the subject of fossil fuels from his first bestselling book and broadens it into a context-based moral framework, bringing new tools to warriors battling extreme climate policies and their backers, politicians, foundations, and non-governmental organizations. Rather than persisting in the losing tactic of yet more data or louder protestations, he instead places the debate squarely on what’s been missing from all the discussions: the net positive impact of humans’ reliance on this most cost-effective energy source in order to continue progress and innovation for already-developed countries, and to support undeveloped countries to reach their potential to thrive, too.

In other words, Epstein checked the premise of the anti-fossil fuel movement and determined it is built solely on an immoral conviction that human impact, and thus human life, is catastrophic for the planet. Epstein decries that agenda as too one-sided to ignore, then redefines the battlefield with his unique perspective.

His answer is our new weapon against cries of environmental activists.

More of a critical thinking “how-to” work than anything else, Epstein first defines the entire knowledge system we rely on - experts, synthesizers, disseminators, and evaluators - and proceeds to show how easily they have become unethically biased, distorted, amplified, and finally revered. Most importantly, he demonstrates that the authorities that the media interviews time and again about energy are fixated on assessing negative human environmental impact as the primary moral goal, nothing more. As we learned too late during the COVID lockdowns, few policymakers or their “green” supporters have given much thought to the economic consequences of their incessant advocacy to eliminate fossil fuels. They simply desire to re-capture what has never existed - a peaceful earthly paradise.

Leaning on his background as a philosopher and obviously influenced by Ayn Rand, Epstein presents a new moral imperative framework for future debates based on human flourishing, instead. He encourages weighing both the pros and the cons equally to determine whether fossil fuels (and humans) improve life or destroy it. Rather than deifying Mother Nature and pretending the natural world is a safe cocoon for all life as long as humans don’t muck it up with pollution and nuclear weapons, Epstein shrugs off this utopian dream and proves that humans have made the planet more livable, safer, cleaner, and more productive through the use of machinery, manufactured and powered by fossil fuels, to deliver ample food, breakthrough technology, life-saving medicines, clean water, and most importantly, the time to research new solutions for our future needs.

Interestingly, Epstein embraces increased CO2 levels as a positive sign for life forms which require moderate temperatures to survive, as well as a challenge to identify and exploit future energy sources which have the potential to be even more cost-effective than fossil fuels. Until that time, however, he makes a compelling case for increasing our use of oil, coal, and natural gas, with his final chapter dedicated to give you the tools to make your own arguments, one-on-one, to disbelievers in your circle of contacts.

This book is highly relevant today, and indispensable to those willing to wade through the wealth of proof and philosophical underpinnings of Epstein’s research and first-hand experiences debating the anti-fossil fuel crowd for many years. It’s long, thorough, yet without narrative stories to soothe or excess data to numb you. (For those seeking quick answers, I recommend Chapter 3 and Chapter 11.) Epstein makes his case completely and thoroughly, and his passion for the topic and the power of his solutions shine through.
Profile Image for Laura.
677 reviews144 followers
September 7, 2022
The author and I do not deny climate is changing. Also, every living thing on the earth consumes. I think we should put more focus on the use of an abundance of available and affordable energy, so all of humankind may survive and flourish. We need the animals, trees, grass, plants and even insects to survive. There are so many people on earth barely surviving without access to a reliable source of energy. The changes being made toward renewables (which currently are not a sole reliable, portable form of energy) without the needed infrastructure updates will leave massive amounts of people without energy access. The construction, disposal and positioning of solar panels & wind turbines has destructive, negative impact on the earth too. This is a good book with a lot of information. I didn't rate it higher because it could have made all the points with a lot less words.
Profile Image for Ron Housley.
97 reviews9 followers
February 14, 2023
Fossil Future – Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas – Not less
Alex Epstein ©2022 (468 pages)

a short Book Report by Ron Housley (6.5.2022)

Here is a book that will get attacked the loudest by those who won’t read it. It is a book that questions the catastrophic predictions expected from climate warming; and it is a book contending that killing off fossil fuels could kill off human flourishing itself.

This wouldn’t be the first time that a book will have been condemned by those who refuse to read it; but it could be the first time that human flourishing itself was at stake.

Alex Epstein beckons us to take a serious look at the benefits of fossil fuels as our culture is persuaded to embrace a “net zero” goal of abandoning fossil fuels altogether.

Epstein uses the concept of “Knowledge System” --- referring to the chain of information: from the scientist-researchers, to the synthesizers of the research, to the disseminators of research, to the evaluators of research. He points out that these components of the knowledge system are separate entities; and they are each populated by “designated experts.” He shows a clear picture of how information becomes skewed from the moment it leaves the scientists’ hands and becomes processed by an army of synthesizers, disseminators and evaluators. It’s sometimes like a long game of telephone, as information is packaged for various audiences. It is fascinating to see how information presented to us by mainstream disseminators and evaluators often fails to represent what the scientific research itself suggests.

There is much discussion of the mainstream knowledge system, how it operates on the problematic standard that we should eliminate human impact on the earth; and how it also operates on the questionable standard that the earth is somehow a “delicate nurturer” — i.e., that the earth is clean and safe, except for man making it dirty and dangerous. The mainstream knowledge system embraces both of these operating standards, but rarely states them explicitly.

A central message here is that regardless of where we stand on the “climate change” controversy, most of us are blind to the vast scale of benefits attributable to fossil fuels. Epstein invests an entire 135 pages breathing life into the picture showing the vast scale of fossil fuel’s positive impact on our every-day lives; he paints a picture that most of us had never before quite conceptualized or appreciated.

Amidst all the talk about negative “externalities” of fossil fuels, we rarely consider the “positive externalities” — which turn out to be incalculably massive.

Common in the national conversation around fossil fuels and their impact on the planet, we hear one side accuse the other of being “climate deniers;” but we don’t hear the other side invoking the “benefit denier” charge. My impression is that both sides have been largely unaware of the magnitude of benefits that are threatened with the calls to eliminate fossil fuels. This book may be the first time most of us will have asked the question: what do we as a species stand to lose if we abandon fossil fuels in our futures? The tentative answer is that we stand to lose all pretense at attaining flourishing or fulfillment on earth. Epstein’s discussion of fossil fuel benefits makes the prospects chillingly real.

On page 150 we get this: “…fossil fuels haven’t taken a naturally clean environment and made it unnaturally dirty….they’ve taken a naturally dirty environment and made it unnaturally clean.” Fossil fuel’s role in giving us a clean environment is but one small instance of benefits, in all the pages comprising the wonders that fossil fuels bestow to humans. Many of us will find ourselves astonished as we reacquaint ourselves with the myriad of crucial benefits. These are the gazillions of every-day benefits that we not only take for granted, but which were totally unknown to mankind for most of history. These are not only sanitation, medical care, housing, education, recreation, plentiful food and water, technology, but the very ability to achieve fulfillment during our stay on earth.

Epstein makes the point that “the natural unimpacted state of the planet is not conducive to human flourishing” (p 122) and that our abundance is the result of our massive productive ability, which in turn cannot occur without “ultra-cost-effective fossil fuel energy.”

Epstein encourages us to examine questions about using fossil fuel energy from the standard of “human flourishing,” and not from today’s standard of blocking any impact on nature.

He points out that the standard of not impacting nature presumes nature to be “stable, sufficient and safe;” but it is not. Instead, he insists, nature is “dynamic, deficient and dangerous” (p. 98) The human flourishing contention is that we can cope with nature as deficient and dangerous — but only by “massive, intelligent human impact on nature.” (p. 103)

We live in a culture where the knowledge system drives public decisions. It is a knowledge system implying that the benefits of using fossil fuels are trivial, and easy to replace; but those benefits would be impossible to replace. It is a knowledge system which is heavily anti-energy, in spite of energy’s important role in human flourishing. It is a knowledge system invested in ignoring the benefits of fossil fuels while catastrophizing the side-effects. It is a knowledge system that opposes mankind impacting nature.

As long as the knowledge system continues to oppose mankind impacting nature, Epstein argues, we will risk being on a course to ever less human flourishing.

“…today’s CO2 levels are less than one-tenth of the planet’s historical high points — which were some of the most life-friendly times in the planet’s history.” (p. 265)

The whole conversation addressing atmospheric carbon dioxide carries the implication that higher levels bring disaster. Yet in the history of earth, that has not been the case. So why is it supposedly the case today?

And why did historical CO2 concentrations far greater than we have today not result in catastrophic warming, but resulted in the Cambrian explosion of planetary life, instead?

Ditto for ignoring the temperature history of earth. History is riddled with ice ages and interglacial periods of warming, all without human produced carbon dioxide. How could there have been such severe fluctuations when man wasn’t yet on the scene to contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide?

Epstein is contending not only that the national conversation ignores these important questions about planetary history, but that it also ignores the vast “climate mastery” over fossil fuel side-effects which have developed during over a century of growth.

As long as humans have free will, their governing knowledge systems can be rational or irrational. Epstein’s book takes a serious look at the prospect that a couple degrees of temperature change could result in catastrophe for the planet; and he takes a look at how opinions are nudged by the dominant knowledge system.

Most importantly he examines how today’s knowledge system supports “the view that continuing fossil fuel use has no real benefit” (p. 242), a view supported “at the highest levels of influence.” Epstein vividly describes “the apocalypse of fossil fuel elimination” (p. 392) and beckons us not to view it dismissively.

In the final analysis, Epstein is asking us to reconsider the basic assumptions and framework we use when looking at questions about the climate and fossil fuels; he is looking beneath the surface — at the mental processes at work. He is encouraging us to consider full context, even though our culture favors a more narrow view.

Fossil Future is Epstein’s attempt to present a more comprehensive picture of what we’re up against. I hope I’m not over-optimistic in wishing a fair hearing for his book.
Profile Image for Patrick Peterson.
473 reviews202 followers
August 7, 2023
2023-08-07 Just finished this yesterday and it is the best new book I have read in several years. Absolutely a gem.

The title sounds almost preposterous, I know. But I urge you to give the book, or at least the first chapter, a chance. Read it.

If you are concerned about the environment - this book is crucial.

If you are concerned about the future of the country or world - this book is a must.

If you are concerned about good government and personal policies regarding environmental issues - do NOT miss this book.

If you want to know what the real scoop is on electric cars, subsidies, mandates, etc. - get this book immediately.

If facts and logic are at all important to you on any of these issues, you will love this book.

Don't hesitate, the book is hugely important for your future and our future.

If you want to avoid a world of poverty, black outs, brown outs, rationing, conflict, etc. etc. this book will show the way.

If you think you know what the deal is with all these issues above, but still have a tough time persuading others, you will find clear ideas in the book that will amaze you as to how you can be more successful, with a new approach.
Profile Image for Socrates Finch.
2 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2022
(the following is excerpted from my full review, which you can read here: https://socratesintrospections.substa...)

This book might just become the most important book of this decade.

As Alex Epstein goes into in Fossil Future, for over half a decade our cultural and educational institutions have been promoting climate change as a drastic solution and going *green* (solar and wind energy) as not just the rational answer, but the moral answer. Thus, to counteract climate hysteria and—as he describes it, the “anti-impact framework”—we need to respond with a solution that is moral in nature.

Although a rational argument for fossil fuels, and in general energy that is not *green,* is very crucial—and Alex Epstein does present the rational argument for fossil fuels also and does it very well—the moral argument for fossil fuels is just as important, if not more so. Thankfully, a huge portion of the book covers this angle.

Fossil Future is a masterpiece of freedom-centric literature.
1 review
May 24, 2022
This book is an boring one. Says they look at both sides then ignores one side altogether. Has some very odd opinions unsupported by science or economics or common sense. Much better books on this topic out there. Don't bother with it.
Profile Image for Brahm.
481 reviews54 followers
September 1, 2022
Update: I was able to discuss this book with Dr. Chris Keefer on Decouple Reads!

This was a terrific idea book that constantly challenged my thinking. A great follow-up to Climate Change as Class War (my review; at the opposite end of some spectra, but in some key ways quite similar, more on this below).

There's no shortage of easy reasons to NOT read this book: the title, the subtitle, Epstein's Ayn Rand Institute credential, a PragerU quote on the back, the snarky top reviews, etc. But there's a great, well-argued thesis that is worth exploring and engaging.

Epstein's essential argument emphasizes the relationship between energy consumption and "human flourishing" (quoted because he uses that phrase about a million times in the book). More energy consumed = more human flourishing. And guess what type of energy is super cheap, accessible, versatile, reliable, and scalable? Fossil fuels.

This is a challenging book to summarize because it takes on the entire "knowledge system" that tells us that fossil fuels are bad, and reducing their use is good. A cohesive review would be a quarter of the length of the book.

An interesting dichotomy is set up early in the book: "human flourishing" (things that enable humans to live better now) vs. "anti-impact" (things that reduce human's impact on the planet).

Epstein tries - quite effectively, to be honest - to claim the moral high ground in the fossil fuel debate by simply discussing how useful fossil fuels are, then suggesting that it is amoral to deprive billions of unempowered people of the use of fossil fuels today. That it is more immoral to deprive humans of the potential to flourish than it is to impact nature.

This is where I see the common ground with Climate Change as Class War: winning climate/energy movements will be the whoever can boil down abstract, inaccessible techno-speak and concepts to either "what's in it for me?" or a moral argument, as Epstein is doing.

An interesting thought experiment is to take any energy- or climate-themed book, article, etc. and look at it through this "human flourishing/anti-impact" lens. What is the primary driver? Reducing impact on the planet or improving human lives?

As an aside, the energy/flourishing relationship should not be controversial. In Energy and Civilization: A History (2018), Vaclav Smil writes (p437):
"What can be foreseen with great certainty is that much more energy will be needed during the coming generations to extend decent life to the majority of a still growing global population whose access to energy is well below the minima compatible with a decent quality of life."
Where Epstein does start to get (more) controversial (or depending on your point of view or politics, completely off the deep end) is the section discussing/minimizing human climate impacts. Ideas like (paraphrasing) "CO2 isn't so bad because it's plant food." Downplaying human impacts on climate by countering with human adaptability. Every one of his arguments is essentially true (plants DO eat CO2, humans ARE adaptable). And when you start to ask yourself a question about something Epstein missed, like "what about the coral reefs, Epstein!? What do you think about those?!" you have to go back to anti-impact vs. human flourishing, and ask yourself if you believe depriving the developing world of live-giving energy outweighs coral reefs (or whatever else you imagine).

Some criticisms. While each chapter of the book has a different focus, individual sentences are extremely repetitive. This has a mild-to-moderate brainwashing effect and wears down the reader's resistance.

Epstein is a master persuader and I was going to describe some of his repetitive rhetoric as "Trumpian" until I got to the last chapter and he did it for me. In "Reframing the Conversation and Arguing to 100" he shares his secret sauce around reframing the moral goal of an issue like climate. Imagine a linear scale that runs from -100 to 0 to +100. On climate we might have a moral goal at +100 of "eliminating CO2 emissions". The opposite end at -100 would be "more CO2 emissions". Arguing this -100 is untenable so many people/groups concede the overall moral goal and ineffectively "argue to zero". By reframing the moral goal as "more human flourishing" at +100, it forces new conversations as you/whoever are forced to confront "less human flourishing" as a result of any substantial restrictions on energy access/use. Back to Trump: Epstein used "Make America Great Again" as an example of Arguing to 100. Instead of trying to find a place on the -100 to +100 landscape of economic inequality issues in 2016, Trump just declared Greatness as the new moral goal. (Epstein "neither endorses nor condemns this")

Epstein is also a student of Robert Cialdini, and when he was cited in the last chapter I recognized its methods (often their inverses) at work in the main body of the text: Authority (dismantling existing), Scarcity (of energy, you don't want it!), Social Proof (dismantling existing), etc.

Where do I stand on all of this? I'm still processing and reconciling, but...

For one, as a strong believer in nuclear energy I feel I have the ultimate moral high ground; nuclear has almost all the benefits of fossil fuels (cheap, accessible, versatile, reliable, and scalable) with none of the CO2 emissions. Let's focus on accelerating nuclear to address energy poverty. In a great mini-example of Arguing to 100, Epstein often refers to nuclear as "criminalized" to emphasize some of the detrimental restrictions that have been put on it. (for a whole book on that, see Why Nuclear Power Has Been a Flop).

Two, for better or worse I am a student of the Nassim Taleb school of thought. Taleb says that climate models (or any models) are basically horseshit but the precautionary principle should apply to climate change (source):

We have only one planet. This fact radically constrains the kinds of risks that are appropriate to take at a large scale. Even a risk with a very low probability becomes unacceptable when it affects all of us – there is no reversing mistakes of that magnitude.
It is the degree of opacity and uncertainty in a system, as well as asymmetry in effect, rather than specific model predictions, that should drive the precautionary measures. Push a complex system too far and it will not come back. The popular belief that uncertainty undermines the case for taking seriously the 'climate crisis' that scientists tell us we face is the opposite of the truth. Properly understood, as driving the case for precaution, uncertainty radically underscores that case, and may even constitute it.
I would recommend this book to readers interested in energy because I suspect some of the verbiage coined in the book will grow in popularity, and it would be helpful to have the full context of the book, regardless of what you think when you finish.

Epstein could be like the Gary Taubes of energy, bringing a compelling new argument to a long-entrenched knowledge system. (see: Good Calories, Bad Calories).
Profile Image for Yash Arya.
65 reviews7 followers
August 4, 2022
There is a common false-alternative presented in most climate change discussions today:
* Stereotypical conservative: Deny climate change.
* Stereotypical progressive: Assume all climate change is bad.

Missing perspective: In no other area of our lives do we assume change is bad without looking at the full context. By what standard should we evaluate whether the change is good or bad? Is the Earth naturally stable, safe, and sufficient that we impact negatively? Or is it naturally dynamic, dangerous, and deficient that we impact positively?

Around 100 million people died under Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, and Communist China. If we wrongfully demonize any ultra-cost-effective source of energy, it may lead to the death of billions.

Before reading the book, I saw the following talk by the author that elaborates on the key ideas listed below.
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein

Principle: When evaluating the full context of an issue, we must look precisely at the benefits and side-effects of each option, including the option of doing nothing. This is in contrast to exaggerating the pros of one option and the cons of another.

Action Bias: The fallacious tendency to assume that doing anything is better than doing nothing. Something, depending on what it is, may be better, worse, or as good as doing than nothing.

Key Idea #1. For decades to come fossil fuels will remain by far the lowest-cost source of reliable energy for billions of people.

Key Idea #2: Low-cost reliable energy is fundamental to human flourishing, including a safe and healthy environment.

"only about 1.5 billion people live in what I call the empowered world, which means they use at least one third of the electricity of the average American. Over three billion people live in what I call the unempowered world, where the average person uses less electricity than the average American refrigerator. And almost three billion people are in between in what I call the barely-empowered world. That means that six billion unempowered or barely-empowered people live in a world where, compared to what those of us in the empowered world often take for granted, it is far more difficult to nourish themselves, it is far more difficult to protect themselves from nature, and they have far less opportunity to achieve fulfillment."

Key Idea #3: Continuing fossil fuel use will cause some warming but it will be slow and masterable - not catastropic.

I also explored both sides of the argument in considerable depth. The resources are documented here.
Resources on Environmentalism

In addition to Alex's talk above, I recommend at minimum checking out the talk
Global Warming vs Global Greening by Matt Ridley. You should quickly be able to see at least one big gap in your knowledge of the world based on what you learnt (or rather, didn't learn) in school.

Even after going through all the material above before reading this book, Alex's approach to the problem helped clarify my thinking further.

As an exercise, I went through all the 1-star reviews on Goodreads so far. I suggest you do the same and figure out for yourself how much of the criticism comes from an honest examination of Alex's argument. The only criticism I sort of understand is that the book does get somewhat repetitive. But this is for good reason. When facing a perspective that's significantly opposed to what's commonly dissipated by mainstream media, it's important to repeat the key elements of the argument often enough such that no honest person can evade it by glancing through it too quickly.

If the argument of the book is correct, and you understand that billions of lives at stake because of a biased and broken knowledge system in this topic, I consider it positively immoral to rate it 1 star on the basis of said repetition.
Profile Image for Liam Bryce.
1 review
August 7, 2022
I try to expose myself to opposing views because I find it more stimulating.

With that motivation (and after being recommended), I decided to read “Fossil Future; Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas--Not Less” by Alex Epstein.

It had 4.7/5 on Amazon, 5/5 on Booktopia and 4.2/5 on Goodreads, so I was conned into thinking this was a quality book. A warning to those considering reading this. It’s absolute trash.

Even if I agreed with Alex, it’s incredibly lazy, extremely repetitive, shoddy is too generous a word to call the arguments presented, and worst of all extremely, extremely, extremely boring.

Background on the author: Alex Epstein is an unintelligent and lazy grifter. He’s created a for-profit think tank to shill fossil fuels. He has a degree in philosophy, which like most philosophers he uses to construct entire arguments with logical constructs. That's fine for esoteric things like the meaning of life but not energy policy. That needs research. I’d be shocked if this book had more than 10 sources.

The entire book falls apart in literally the first chapter.

This is the entire logic of the book:

“After 50 years, renewables (excluding hydro) only make up 5% of the global grid so that must mean they’re too expensive and unreliable. If we tried for 50 years and can’t make it work, it will never work. Therefore renewables can never be cost-effective.”

Then the rest of the book is just explaining all the things we use power for and would suck to lose.


Every subsequent argument utterly falls apart if renewables can replace fossil fuels. The entire book revolves around something he refers to only once in a couple paragraphs at the beginning. He doesn't mention price per mwh, fixed costs and ongoing costs, the comparison between battery + renewable vs. natural gas. That's what I was curious about, yet nothing in this longwinded wet fart of an experience.

So to help Alex, I spent a few minutes googling (more than he did):
- Solar panels are becoming exponentially cheaper, getting massively cheaper every year: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/so...
- Renewables have only in the last few years become cost competitive: https://www.forbes.com/sites/energyin...
- Now they're competitive renewables are absolutely booming, going from 8.9% energy share to 13.5% in just the last 10 years. That's 52% growth and will only accelerate as costs keep falling: https://ourworldindata.org/renewable-...

So there you have it... The whole book made completely redundant in 5 minutes. Renewables are becoming exponentially cheaper while oil/gas gets more expensive. It's an inevitability they will replace them for almost all energy generation.

Alex is a lazy disingenuous idiot and he wrote a rubbish book. Don't read.
Profile Image for Robertas Bakula.
9 reviews1 follower
July 14, 2022
This is a brilliant reconceptualisation and reframing of the whole apocalyptic climate change hysteria (some general argument-spoilers ahead).

Alex Epstein brilliantly exposes the errors of the framework with which fossil fuels and climate change are being analysed and evaluated in our knowledge system.

Some takeaways (that are so obvious when you see them that it becomes embarrassing that I haven't noticed them before):
- We have to evaluate fossil fuels in a full context, meaning: with all their benefits and costs. We don't eliminate antibiotics, vaccines, or any other human value just because is has downsides, do we? Then why are we so eager to eliminate fossil fuels, which are essential, if not the fundamental block of our survival, civilization, and flourishing? As long as the enormous life-giving benefits of fossil fuels are not recognized, our evaluation of them must be irrational.
- While for 50 years not a single prediction of apocalyptic climate change has come through, we can be certain that eliminating fossil fuels will turn out to be apocalyptic to the human race.
- Fossil fuels are a uniquely cost-effective source of energy, and the unreliable "renewables", even though they had more than a century and an enormous amount of subsidies to compete and prove themselves against fossil fuels, are nowhere even close to (and due to their characteristics - cannot ever come to) replacing fossil fuels in satisfying our current demand of energy (only 3% of total energy produced in the world comes from the "green" wind and solar), not to speak of providing more energy that billions of people in the world desperately lack.
- The anti-fossil fuel movement rests on two crucially wrong and evil assumptions: "the delicate nurturer" assumption of nature, which holds the "unimpacted" nature as balanced, safe, and abundant, while in reality, the unimpacted nature for humans is dangerous, scarce, and deadly. Human impact on nature, environmentalists hold, is intrinsically evil, because it disturbs the balance. But human beings, as such, survive only and to the extent they impact nature. Starting from agriculture and ending with space exploration, human flourishing depends on the rational, value-driven impact humans exert on nature to transform it according to their needs. Therefore, anti-impact position = anti-human life position.

These are only few stark observations Alex makes. In the book, he provides a systematized, very well-argued and data-supported analysis for each of them and much more.

This is a must-read today, when the world which needs much more energy than it currently uses faces a deep energy crisis due to the anti-fossil fuel policies of the last few decades.
1 review1 follower
July 9, 2022
A book tha should be read by everyone!

This author presents a logical, compelling, and undeniable case for the benefits and in fact t he imperative for increasing energy availability throughout the world, and why only fossil fuels for now and nuclear energy in the future are the only real answer.
Profile Image for Walter Kuriger.
22 reviews5 followers
June 30, 2022
I truly enjoyed reading this book. Great information. Also, great information to share with others. If you want to continue to live in a world where you benefit from the freedom provided by fossil fuels, you definitely need to read this book, and share it with others.
Profile Image for Victor Lu.
217 reviews
August 4, 2022
The multitude of problems with this book and the arguments contained therein made it extremely difficult to finish. To start, the author is not a climate scientist; in fact, he is not any kind of scientist (he has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and computer science), and it shows. His fundamental argument is as follows:
1. Human life is the highest form of life (and the only form of life worth protecting)
2. Therefore, everything we do should advance humanity, regardless of impact to other species or the environment
3. Fossil fuels are cheap (and cheap is good)
4. Therefore, we shouldn't invest in renewable energy and should instead increase our use of fossil fuels

There are literally so many problems with not only the author's reasoning, but also auxiliary points he makes. A few examples are listed below.
- The author argues that even though global warming is occurring, that's a good thing because people don't live in arctic climates because it's too cold
- He says that air conditioning combats the effects of global warming, so we are ultimately unimpacted because we can just go inside
- He speaks about some of the challenges in renewable energy as though no one has ever thought about issues of reliability, footprint, etc. even though this is a huge part of the Renewables conversation within the scientific and engineering community. Further, he argues that because these challenges exist, we should not pursue renewables (as though there is no solution to be found).
- He speaks about nuclear energy as though it doesn't have the support of the scientific community; this is not at all the case, as nuclear is heralded as a far superior form of energy production to coal and fossil fuels in the scientific community.
- There is an unignorable undertone of colonization and Western superiority in any discussion of "developing" or "undeveloped" nations/communities
- It is fairly clear that there are strong political motivations behind the author's reasoning as evidenced in how he discusses climate scientists and environmental activists.
- (Side note: when you quote the likes of Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk as sources of truth and inspiration, you know something is off)
- While the author claims that the "pro-human" approach is to use cheap energy precisely because it is cheap and therefore accessible to the poor, he fails to identify how climate change is already devastating large swaths of the global south.

Furthermore, the author provided no data to support any of his poorly reasoned, baseless claims.

0/10 would not recommend as a legitimate resource under any circumstances.
Profile Image for Brian Katz.
260 reviews9 followers
July 8, 2022
This book is in need of an editor !
Much too long winded !
Could have been accomplished in 1/3 of the pages !

Having said that, I agree with most of what Alex writes. I’m not going to become an official “social media” advocate of his approach simply because my head would explode from the attacks. The case he makes by looking at the full context of the issue is compelling. Cost and benefit is the only way to analyze any challenge, and the current Climate Czars do not consider the benefits. Over our history and long before humans, carbon levels have been much higher than today and yet, Mother Earth has survived.

He discussed the morality of this matter, which presents the issue square in the face. Those who favor fossil fuel elimination say that the Earth must be protected at all and any costs, because the Earth supports life for humans. This approach puts humans in second line after the planet in the moral debate, an impossible conundrum when debating anyone. But Alex counters with the morality of putting humans first, before the planet, which I agree with - but acknowledge that most progressives and the left would never do. He fashions the debate in terms of “reducing human impact” on the planet, which is the mainstream approach.

It was fascinating to read his detailed discussions of how fossil fuels have improved life for humans through machines, which leverage the power of fossil fuels to accomplish tasks in farming, mining, construction and even in medicine. The list was long and really hit home how much humans rely on fossil fuels. Alex is a big supporter of Nuclear fuel, as am I.

I am not a climate denier, I am a realist. I want the private sector to manage this problem with inputs and guidelines from the government. The government cannot dictate mandates as they will crush the economy. After 18 months into the Biden Administration and his attack on fossil fuels it is crystal clear that his energy policies are destroying the economy with inflation out of control and the stock market tanking. Government intervention never works and this is an example of that.
Profile Image for Mr Brian.
28 reviews4 followers
June 24, 2022
This is a somewhat over-hyped ridiculous book, which endlessly quotes the author.
AE makes 'straw men' arguments throughout- where he creates extreme scenarios and then attacks those, despite these never been said or written. For example, he bases an early foundation premise on the lack of electricty in a hospital 'Africa' on an unverified blog and bases his argument on that. The hospital is not named nor is there a date for when this is supposed to happen.
The countries of Africa get barely a mention in the book, despite huge programmes in renewables and solar energy being implemented 'there'.
The author , in Chapter 9 makes a big point about levels of carbon dioxide being good for 'life'. He is very careful not to say 'human life'- plant life may well benefit from carbon dioxide. Omissions are important.
This leads me to the biggest gaps in the argument.
AE not once addresses how his 'mastery methods'- which of course are not outlined in specific detail, just waved at- will lower the rising global temperature or lower the rising carbon dioxide level.
This is a central point, for the future use of fossil fuels, which he ignores.
He also does not address the impact of rising CO2 or temperature on countries, infrastructure and people, meaning there can be no justification for continued fossil fuel use.
The author is a philosophy graduate, in no way qualifed or experienced to write on energy matters. And it shows. Far too many general vague points- for example, he spends 3 pages outlining why fossil fuel machines will help people have 'thinking time' (for real, this isn't a joke) and how that will be a benefit. Avoiding of course the impact on the labour market. Another 3 pages are spent describing what a 'tool' is.
This is a book that can easily be dismissed by simply looking out your window and seeing the impact of the climate crisis. Yet supporters are lapping this book up, despite not having read it themselves, which is peculiar.
Profile Image for Jack.
815 reviews12 followers
June 8, 2022

I liked the author’s first book, A Moral Case for Fossil Fuel, but this book is so hard to read that I was barely able to finish it. If you were to squeeze it down to the salient points, it makes some good arguments. The points about how the designated experts catastrophise things and they are selected as experts precisely because they are catastrophists is a good one. The point about how the experts don’t weigh the benefits heavily enough is also good. That being said, the writing is awful. It’s redundant, hard to follow and just boring.Vaslav Smil’s latest book, How the World Really Works, is much better and supports the same points more effectively.
48 reviews1 follower
June 16, 2022
Very informative

There is so much to be said for the continued use of fossil fuels. If you just take a moment and look around you would see that everything we have is due to the many uses of fossil fuels. I believe the people pushing the green agenda are just looking for more power and control over the average man. The average man is easily led, in this case to their disaster. The people that are helping push this agenda are in it for the money. They repeat all this nonsense till people believe it. It becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. I for one have always believed in the use of fossil fuels.
Profile Image for Jim Sharp.
58 reviews1 follower
June 6, 2022
Great book which explains its viewpoint with objective reasoning and objective data. I'd say it's fair to disagree on the overall premise but it's disingenuous to disregard its proposition without caveats and thoughtful counter arguments. It seems likely that the one star ratings are from people who a) did not read the book and/or b) have no objectivity or willingness to change their minds based on reasoning or facts.
Profile Image for Brian Skinner.
178 reviews4 followers
July 22, 2022
This book is a masterpiece. A bullet proof refutation of green energy radicals. He accurately labels them an having anti human ideas because they are more concerned about the earth than they are about actual people.
2 reviews
June 12, 2022
Outstanding book that I will probably read annually and reference regularly. Thank you Alex!
Profile Image for Joey Johnson.
14 reviews2 followers
June 18, 2022
Most important book to read in 2022

A must read for anyone wanting the human race to progress and flourish. Completely reframed my perspective on this topic.
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