Thursday, 5 March 2015

"The Crisis in Energy Education"

Alex Epstein writes:

There is a dangerous lack of energy education…. In particular, there is a lack of education about the indispensable benefits provided by fossil fuels. What are the consequences of this, and how do we fix it? That's the topic of my latest Forbes column, "The Crisis in Energy Education":

        The fossil fuel industry, as the leading and most misunderstood energy industry, has an obligation
        and self-interest in educating its employees and the public about energy, yet does a miserable job at it.

From kindergarten through high school through Ph.D. programs, all of us are taught that fossil fuel use is fundamentally immoral—a self-destructive addiction that’s destroying our planet, or at best a necessary evil that we have to get rid of as soon as possible, even if that (unfortunately) means a few more decades. [...] Where are we taught that fossil fuels are not a self-destructive addiction to get off of, but a healthy choice that billions of people need more of?

As a culture, almost nowhere.

Read More.


  1. Driving back south from Cairns, I took the inland road, and one night slept beside the railway line. In the early morning I could hear the big train trucks coming down. I thought it was the cattle train but it was coal; hundreds of tons of coal, maybe going to Gladstone and I waved and waved at this train driver like a schoolboy.
    He gave that penetrating blast through the air that only trains can, and waved back . We were in Bob Katter's independent territory and everyone there knows the value of coal.

  2. Epstein is changing the subject and promoting a straw man argument at the same time.

    Fossil fuels provide the energy needs in cities like Beijing and Mexico City, but they also make the air unbreathable.

    So with increasing populations comes the need to find more efficient, or at least non-polluting energy sources.

    Epstein should find a more constructive use for his time.

  3. @Max: Let's just appreciate the context that you're dropping by rewriting your sentences more fully reflective of that context:

    Epstein is revealing the context of fossil fuel use that is almost universally ignored: of the the indispensable benefits provided by fossil fuels and the increasing health, wealth, life expectancy and prosperity it makes possible.

    Fossil fuels now provide the energy needs that underpin prosperity and survival right across industrial and developing civilisation, where it has taken on increasing importance in recent times with the growing numbers of human beings and rapidly increasing life expectancy it has made possible in increasingly prosperous cities like Beijing and Mexico City (made possible by increasing fossil fuel use) where, in this first stage of industrialisation and without yet fully recognised property rights, they also make the air unpleasant for those who would otherwise not be alive.

    So with increasing populations comes the need to find more efficient, or at least non-polluting energy generation, recognition of real property rights that will provide incentive for their use, and the increasing prosperity (that fossil fuels make possible) that will make these systems and sources affordable for all -- just as has occurred in the west's long journey from the industrial revolution to today, only much, much more rapidly.

    Max should find a more constructive use for his time.

  4. Peter, I was adding the context Epstein & yourself are ignoring. Fossil fuel use has drawbacks as well as benefits. By overstating the benefits and ignoring the drawbacks you are showing the same cognitive dissonance as the as the tree-huggers at the other end of the spectrum.

    Increasing fossil fuel use does not equal increased prosperity, health, life expectancy etc. The USA uses roughly double the energy per capita than European countries yet is well down the rankings on these statistics. Context remember?

    Of course property rights will fix the pollution problems of the 3rd world, because cities in developed countries like Los Angeles don't have air pollution problems.

  5. @Max: Yes, fossil fuel use has a lot of downsides - and Winston Churchill made a lot of mistakes (when he wasn't saving the Western world from dictatorship that is).


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