Fossil Fuels: The Big Picture



Should the world stop using fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas? Or should we embrace them as an essential part of modern life? Alex Epstein explores these questions.


The world needs more fossil fuels—more oil, coal, and natural gas. Not less.

Does that sound crazy?

It’s actually not—not if you employ one common-sense principle.

It’s the same principle you use when you decide whether to take a prescription drug.

Carefully weigh the benefits and the negative side effects.

If the benefits of using fossil fuels outweigh the negative side effects, then we should keep using fossil fuels. If the negative side effects outweigh the benefits, then we should stop using fossil fuels as soon as possible.

Which is it?

It turns out that the benefits of fossil fuels far outweigh the negative side effects.

The reason that most so-called experts, including many climate scientists, are against fossil fuels is that they violate this principle. They ignore the benefits of fossil fuels while overstating their negative side effects.

To know the truth about the benefits and side effects of fossil fuels, you need to understand eight essential facts.

Fact One: Cost-effective energy is essential to human flourishing.

This is almost never discussed, but no one can dispute it.

Low-cost, reliable, versatile energy makes modern life possible. There’s a simple reason for this. Energy powers the machines that allow us to be productive and prosperous—from the combine harvesters that allow one farm worker to do the work of 1,000 to the incubators that save the lives of millions of premature babies. Everything depends on energy.

Thanks to the unprecedented availability of cost-effective energy—overwhelmingly fossil fuel energy—the world has never been a better place for human life. Life expectancy has risen sharply. And extreme poverty (those that earn less than $2 per day) has plummeted from 42% in 1980 to less than 10% today.

Fact Two: Billions of people are suffering and dying for lack of energy.

Most of us take cost-effective energy for granted. But much of the world doesn’t have that luxury.

For the full script, visit:

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April 23, 2023 10:07 am

Without fossil fuels kiss food, plastics, semiconductor electronic components and don’t forget cosmetics, goodbye.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Scissor
April 23, 2023 11:15 am

And, clothes, particularly outer wear for bad weather, furniture coverings, upholstery for cars and airplanes, and rope and nets for catching sea food.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
April 23, 2023 12:19 pm

A lot of things can be made from plant fibers, wood, hemp and animal skins, bones, hair, etc. I wonder how much hair combs made out of sea shells would cost today. Would there be enough cats around to be able to string tennis racquets?

Interesting tidbit, the predecessor to Shell Oil imported sea shells from the far east before getting involved in petroleum transport.

Reply to  Scissor
April 23, 2023 10:09 pm

 Would there be enough cats around to be able to string tennis racquets?

But without fossil fuels, there wouldn’t be enough meat to pay the cats wages.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Redge
April 24, 2023 5:28 am

especially since meat eating by us and our pets will be strictly verboten! gotta save the planet yuh know! 🙂

April 23, 2023 10:09 am

Ideally, all energy should be ‘clean’, ‘abundant’, ‘cheap’. If you can get two out of those three you are doing well.

Hydro power in the northwest, Quebec, and a few other places meets all three, until the ‘greenies’ try to make it unaffordable with over-regulation and environmental terrorism, as with fears about the climate.

When you include all lifetime costs, Wind, and Solar, and most renewables, can’t even meet one of them.

Reply to  cuddywhiffer
April 24, 2023 9:20 am

We used to say, “Good, Fast Cheap, pick two”

Tom Halla
April 23, 2023 10:10 am

Remember Paul Ehrlich believes having cheap and abundant power is like “giving an idiot child a machine gun”.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 23, 2023 11:17 am

Only the well-educated and socially responsible should have access to unrestricted power. [Do I have to say it?}

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 23, 2023 11:44 am

We’ve given Idiot Children climate computer models

Reply to  Tom Halla
April 23, 2023 2:12 pm

Paul Ehrlich never got one thing right .
Most of this nonsense about banning fossil fuels originated with this idiot .
Not one of his predictions has come true .
He was a typical university professor that thought that he was better than all people who worked with their hands to actually make things and grow food for the world .
Sorry if any here get upset ,just post one calamity that this clown predicted that has come true .
The greatest thing to come from fossil fuel is nitrogen fertilizer .
You can argue otherwise but it actually grows half of the worlds food .
4 billion people are fed with the food grown with nitrogen fertilizer .

Tom Halla
Reply to  Graham
April 23, 2023 2:17 pm

The issue is that Ehrlich was on 60Minutes fairly recently, so the Greens do not much care how wrong he has been consistently. He still sounds very confident, when he should be in the position of a preacher naming the date for the Second Coming, and being wrong. Several times.

Reply to  Tom Halla
April 23, 2023 5:28 pm

“Naming the date for the Second Coming”

My wife is looking forward to that (:-))

Reply to  Graham
April 23, 2023 3:48 pm

He once described Miami as a hellhole. While there are some nice places around there and the whole thing is not a hellhole, he’s at least partly right.

J Boles
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 23, 2023 2:59 pm

Yet P Ehrlich has a “machine gun”, right? (FF) And he wants to take others away, typical hypocrite leftist.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Tom Halla
April 24, 2023 5:29 am

not having cheap and abundant energy will surely result in those children growing up and sent off to wars with machine guns to battle over resources- like the good old days

Michael in Dublin
April 23, 2023 10:21 am

The larger the sum of money for any government or multinational project the great the corruption and fraud and more difficult the oversight.

Small pilot projects using renewables need to prove themselves economically viable without subsidy and reliable before mammoth climate projects.

The cost of adapting to variable weather conditions and “slight” climate change is a small fraction of the costs of futile attempts to engineer the perfect climate – which is undefined – for the 30 climate zones and sub-zones.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
April 23, 2023 11:19 am

To paraphrase Lord Acton: “Corruption is directly proportional to the political power wielded by an individual, or group of people.

Rud Istvan
April 23, 2023 10:51 am

IMO logical but ineffective.

’Climate scientists’ have built their academic careers on the false premise of CAGW. They are too vested to change, so impervious to facts and logic like cost/benefit.

Whole industries have sprung up around the ‘green renewable’ solutions to the non problem created by the academics. They are not viable without subsidies, so insure politicians provide them by ‘buying into’ CAGW.

And politicians like Kerry and Newsom built their political careers by being CAGW ‘good guys’. Not gonna change.

What causes the whole CAGW thing to eventually crash is a few catastrophic grid collapses caused by renewables, plus meaningful social unrest from coming things like banned new ICE vehicles and new gas/oil home furnaces. Voters will Sweep out the politicians, stop the subsidies, and ignore the academics in the future as none of their predictions to date have proven anything close to correct.
Is has taken 40 years to get where we are. It might take another 20 to collectively come to our senses..

Dennis Gerald Sandberg
Reply to  Rud Istvan
April 23, 2023 11:07 am

Rud,that sounds good, but most people ignored the Texas grid collapse and most of the few that didn’t blame the failure on natural gas. Facts don’t matter in woke America.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Dennis Gerald Sandberg
April 23, 2023 11:22 am

Texas ERCOT did not fully collapse 2/21. UK could, and portions of Germany could. Winter collapse requiring black restart would likely kill thousands.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Rud Istvan
April 23, 2023 3:57 pm

Good points. That said, Alex Epstein’s book Fossil Future is very good and his reach in communicating the essential facts is helpful. Let’s hope the voters pick up on the logic of it all, sooner rather than later. Results so far are mixed. I agree “It might take another 20 [years] to collectively come to our senses.”

Steve Case
April 23, 2023 11:19 am

Three feet of sea level rise in 100 years?

That comes to over 9mm/year starting right now. When does climate science say this is going to begin to happen? Because so far it isn’t.

Fossil fuels are finite. They will gradually become more and more expensive before they run out if they ever do. Syn-fuels will have to power much of the economy as we know it. Wind “Turbines” and Solar Panels aren’t going to carry the day now or ever.

Today, South Africa is a leader in Syn-fuels SECUNDA. Down the road energy from atomic power will be required to produce them.

Reply to  Steve Case
April 23, 2023 12:59 pm

Steve, syn-fuels take too much energy to produce them for them to be economic. It’s like the hydrogen mindset. There are no hydrogen mines, or wells, or reservoirs.

Steve Case
Reply to  cuddywhiffer
April 23, 2023 1:56 pm

Today they aren’t economic, but down the road (my crystal ball doesn’t say when) there won’t be a choice in the matter. Syn-fuel from coal and maybe charcoal are on that far off horizon. It will take a while to use up the coal, there’s a lot of it.

After a short search on “world daily oil production 2022” turns up ~100 million barrels of oil pumped daily. River flow is in cubic meters or feet per second. Some internet look up fun shows that world oil production is about the same as the flow rate for the Milwaukee River not too far from me. So there’s a nice photo of my local river at the wikipedia link above gives you an idea of how big that daily flow of oil is. How long will it last?

Off Topic: You Tube coal fired steam hovels digging the Panama Canal
And modern restorations with sound (-:

Kit P
April 23, 2023 11:35 am

Clean drinking water and waste water treatment is what I consider the biggest benefit to quality of life and protecting the environment. It takes lots of energy and you have to be smarter than brain surgeons and rocket scientist.

Think about it! How many in the world need clean drinking water? About the same as do not have electricity.


Reply to  Kit P
April 23, 2023 10:21 pm

Well said.

This is something, I’ve been banging on about for decades

This coming year 300,000 children will die, not because of climate change, but due to a lack of clean water.

Ben Vorlich
April 23, 2023 11:43 am

One of the big con tricks of the so called renewable energy lobby is the claim that it is low cost. They also imply that reliability is a minor issue with solutions ready and waiting.
When the truth becomes clear to the ignorant, that is those lacking knowledge or awareness in general; or uneducated it will be too late.

Joseph Zorzin
April 23, 2023 12:08 pm

“It’s the same principle you use when you decide whether to take a prescription drug.
Carefully weigh the benefits and the negative side effects.”

As one who takes quite a few prescription drugs- it’s very difficult to get the truth on them- just how good are they really? As for side effects- usually all you get is a very long list of all the potential risks which often includes dozens of items- as if the liars…. er…. lawyers made sure to protect themselves by including just about everything. So I find it very difficult to make good decisions for the drugs. My sense is most doctors aren’t giving their patients enough time to offer good prescriptions even if they had “good science” regarding benefits and side effects. I generally go along with what they recommend but I do interrogate them.

April 23, 2023 12:54 pm

Alex Epstein is a giant.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Bob
April 24, 2023 5:42 am

He is- and he’s young so he’ll be a warrior in this cause for a few generations. We should all buy his books- and offer any support we can. He’s a rare gem. Most of the climate whack jobs refuse to debate him. He’d crush them like he did to Bill McKibben- that debate from several years ago is on YouTube.

Mike McMillan
April 23, 2023 1:20 pm

When I clicked on the YouTube link, I got:

Blocked Page
An error occurred during a connection to

Google is protecting me from climate disinformation.

Reply to  Mike McMillan
April 23, 2023 5:41 pm

OK for me in UK

J Boles
April 23, 2023 3:21 pm

Anyone watch PBS in the USA? Wow they keep mentioning CC and shows about it, always reinforcing the message, warmer, wilder wetter (and drier) weather, harder to grow food, all the standard boilerplate. When will they realize that what they claim is happening is NOT!

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  J Boles
April 24, 2023 5:45 am

What PBS needs to do is have a long interview of Stephen Koonin.

April 23, 2023 7:25 pm

:: Energy is Civilization ::

Rod Evans
Reply to  Old.George
April 23, 2023 11:01 pm

Touché, humans were simply smart (ish) animals, until they discovered how to make and utilise fire. The rest as they say is, history. .

Bill Parsons
April 23, 2023 9:35 pm

Epstein is spelling out the case for using more fossil fuels using common sense arguments and plain language. It doesn’t hurt that he’s courageously challenging the powerful forces that have turned the unlikely and unreliable tools of wind and solar into trillion dollar industries. Most people who see the self-destructive path we’re on don’t go out and fight the left because we don’t need to. We’re warm in the winter and have everything we need. Epstein is willing to stand up against these people – not to shout them down, but to show them how they are wrong.

In his presentations and debates, he speaks directly to audiences with clear, honest arguments. I think he must be very effective in classrooms and it’s vitally important that he does so. It appears this battle has a horizon of multiple decades, so of course it’s critical that we have effective “teachers” like Epstein who can flip the “morality” argument back to where it belongs, compressing the key points into easy sound bytes. He’s doing a great service and should be commended and supported.

Mike Maguire
April 24, 2023 4:21 am

Alex Epstein is a gifted communicator that hits on profoundly relevant and authentic science and energy principles which obliterate the fake climate crisis and make the rational case for fossil fuels.

April 24, 2023 2:03 pm

Over the next decade or two it will become even more apparent that

1) the “catastrophic” part of CAGW is not happening.
2) electricity grids dominated by weather-dependent energy (ie, solar, wind) are unstable and unreliable.
3) building the necessary battery back-up for weather-dependent energy is not remotely feasible.

Only nuclear (fission) energy is a feasible non-carbon solution in the near term. It will be amusing to watch the anti-carbon and anti-nuke movements fight that one out.

Meanwhile, on the current path, China wins and the West loses.

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