Alex Epstein from the Center for Industrial Progress writes in his latest newsletter about a co-campaign launched this week by The Guardian and 350.org in support of divestment in oil.
Rather than making the case against fossil fuels, they (as so many today do) take their evil for granted, casually agreeing with those who "see divestment from fossil fuels in much the same light as earlier campaigners saw the push to pull money out of tobacco, arms, apartheid South Africa – or even slavery."
Far from being impractical or immoral—let alone comparable to slavery—fossil fuels are one of the biggest benefactors to human flourishing in history. As I wrote in my 2013 open letter to the divestment movement, co-signed by many leading scientists and other scholars:
The fossil fuel industry produces 87 percent of the energy people around the world use to feed, clothe, shelter, heal, comfort, and educate themselves. It has fueled the unprecedented increase in industrial development, life expectancy, and quality of life we have seen over the last 30 years. And despite received wisdom about our environment and climate, our fossil fueled society has experienced a dramatic improvement in all environmental indicators worldwide, including a staggering decline in the number of climate-related deaths.
Divesters might counter that "while fossil fuels might have been good for a while, the technology exists right now to power our lives through the sun and the wind and evil Big Oil is just holding it back." But as I explained in my February column "The Moral Case For Investing, Not Divesting, In Fossil Fuels":
If this was the case, it would accelerate the transition much faster to boycott fossil fuels and live almost entirely off solar and wind, leading by example. When student groups wanted to change Nike’s behavior in its Asian factories, they didn’t focus on telling people to sell their Nike stock—they stopped buying Nikes. When the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery Alabama wanted to end the racist policy of forcing black Americans to sit on the back of the bus, they stopped using the bus. If solar and wind are indeed competitive with fossil fuels, why not just start living virtually fossil-free lives?
The truth is that fossil fuels are—now and for the foreseeable future—the only power source that can provide the cheap, plentiful, reliable energy we use to flourish. The truth is that keeping fossil fuels in the ground would put us in the ground.
If you know anyone buying into The Guardian's campaign, or who needs ammunition to counter it, be sure to show them the above articles as well as The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, which they can download the first chapter of for free.