Fossil Fuels: The Moral Case, tracks the benefits to all people resulting from efficient use of energy from fossil fuels. Written by Kathleen White, Director of the Armstrong Center for Energy and the Environment, it documents the history and positive economic benefits of fossil fuels. White discusses the major improvements in human lives over the last 200 years – all fueled by oil and coal – and brings reasoned facts to the energy debate. Fossil fuels are not evil, our use of them is not inherently wasteful, and they are critical to the world economy.
The paper compares life today to the life of a normal family in 1814. Life 200 years ago was short and tough. The father dies of pneumonia; the baby dies of smallpox, the mother’s teeth rot and fall out. They eat gruel, with little meat, fruit, or salad. There are no candles, only a wood fire. They have lice and the children sleep on the floor. Education is basic – no arts or music. They have traveled no farther than 15 miles from home. A jacket costs a month’s wages.
We have all heard of this extreme poverty. But do we understand what it means? Today, this is the life of only the poorest of the poor in developing countries, and even they have cell phones – made and powered by fossil-fuel-generated electricity.
In 2005, compared to even to 1955, the average woman earned three times as much, ate one-third more, buried fewer children, and lived one-third longer. She was less likely to die as a result of war, murder, childbirth, tornadoes, flooding, famine, tuberculosis, malaria, or measles. She was less likely to get cancer, heart disease, or stroke. She was more likely to have finished school. She was more likely to own a telephone, a flush-toilet, a refrigerator, and a bicycle. And over the same 50 years, the world population has more than doubled. This economic progress has been driven by the efficient and cost-effective use of fossil fuels. The world is a better place than it was 200 years ago. As White persuasively argues, the greatest beneficiaries of the use of fossil fuels are the “abject” poor.
Be clear on the facts: prior to the late 1700s neither income per capita nor life expectancy had increased since earliest recorded history. Families lived as they always had. Little change occurred or was expected. The shoemaker’s son would also be a shoemaker, if he lived. The industrial revolution changed this. The management and control of fossil-fuel power has been critical to economic development for billions of people. Machines that help people live safely and productively must work 24/7 and are both created and driven by fossil-fuel-produced energy.
Global-warming alarmists would return us to the 1800s by refusing to recognize the benefits. A 2006 report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) estimates that over 50 gigawatts (GWe) of coal-fired U.S. electric and 40 GWe of nuclear capacity will be removed from use in the next 15-25 years because of radical environmentalists. This will have a significant negative economic impact on all citizens. MIT scientists say this will result in “severe reductions in the services that energy provides to all Americans.”
We’re not the only ones seeing this negative impact. Germany – which has embraced expensive and inefficient energy sources – is now warning that “soaring energy costs” are creating “dramatic de-industrialization.” Many Europeans are now paying three to four times as much for electricity and natural gas as Americans. Environmental extremism is bankrupting people and businesses.
Severe reductions in the U.S. and de-industrialization in Germany are not positive results. We must re-think our hysteria-driven approach to energy. Fossil fuels are not evil – they have given us health and wealth. Bad public policy driven by hysterical global-warming extremists is evil.