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Alex Epstein Explains How Fossil Fuels Lead to Human Flourishing

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Center for Industrial Progress

Author, philosopher, and speaker Alex Epstein isn’t afraid to make the moral case for fossil fuels. To him, coal, oil, and gas are essential for continued human flourishing and environmental progress.


The Center for Industrial Progress founder has decried climate alarmism and radical decarbonization efforts for well over a decade. And he’s not slowing down anytime soon.

The sought-after lecturer has previously presented at Google and before Congress. He also regularly lectures at college campuses and board rooms across the nation. And he has a New York Times bestseller, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels (2014), to his name and another book due out next spring.

With the Biden administration’s aggressive push to go carbon-free by 2050, Epstein’s insights are timely and valuable. Alex recently spoke with me for a wide-ranging conversation about fossil fuels, clean energy alternatives, and the future of human flourishing. 

Climate Emergency? Far From It

Epstein believes the “climate emergency” pushed by Democrats, environmentalists, and media outlets is grossly overhyped. In his view, fossil fuels have lessened instances of actual climate emergencies. 

“I think there is a really interesting element of people not believing in climate catastrophe. And it's very justified to not believe it because … our actual danger level from climate is far lower than it's ever been,” he said.

“The chance of you dying from a climate-related disaster is 1/50 what it would have been 100 years ago,” Epstein noted. “We're 50 times safer from climate in terms of mortality. And yet, we view it as an emergency,” 


He continued, “The way I like to explain it: fossil fuels didn't take a safe climate and make it dangerous; they took a dangerous climate and made it far safer.”

Epstein isn’t wrong. Even a new study from the University of Michigan and Rutgers University revealed that “little is known about how this particular use of stronger terminology may affect readers of climate change news.”

Let the Free Market Decide Viable Alternatives

Instead of the government picking energy winners and losers, particularly the push for unreliable solar and wind, Epstein believes markets should determine supply and demand.

“Have a free market and find out,” he stressed to me.

“I end up talking about the non-viability of certain things like solar and wind, at least as they're proposed, because these are part of coercive government schemes,” Epstein said. “It's not …like [I] go out of my way to just trash solar and wind, but people are claiming solar and wind can replace fossil fuels and therefore it's okay to ban fossil fuels.”

As for net-zero energy proposals to be met by various deadlines, the author calls them unrealistic and says the U.S. is better off sticking with traditional fuels.

“Fossil fuels are by far the world's best source of energy,” he declared.


Epstein said nuclear energy should be explored more, especially after decades’ worth of misinformation misrepresenting it, noting, “There's a strong case that nuclear could be a much more significant player had it not been criminalized by the Green Movement for 40 years.” 

In a recent tweet, the energy expert excoriated the Biden administration for its proposal to push net-zero by 2050: 

There is no such thing as "net-zero emissions" energy today. All forms of energy use large amounts of fossil fuel in their supply chain.

The only hope for net-zero is decriminalizing nuclear. Yet Biden continues to criminalize nuclear and pay for today's "net zero" frauds.

The Future Requires More Fossil Fuels, Not Fewer

Epstein discussed the premise of his forthcoming book, Fossil Future, and why coal, oil and gas are needed to sustain global human flourishing. 

“My basic argument in the book is most of the disagreement over energy and climate issues is not a disagreement about scientific facts or economic facts. It's mostly a disagreement about methodology, and in particular, values. So is your top value advancing human flourishing, or is it eliminating impact on nature?” explained Epstein. “I think I show very definitively that most of the anti-fossil-fuel movement—and most of people's anti-fossil fuel thinking—is because knowingly or not they're not thinking of things in a pro-human way.”


The philosopher equally slammed the Build Better Better Act as the worst “anti-energy piece of legislation” and cautioned against politicians pushing similar top-down proposals like it. 

He also warned that if the U.S. isn’t prudent, it could tragically morph into “the Venezuela of energy.” 


Contrarians like Alex Epstein— along with Michael Shellenberger, Steven Koonin, and Bjorn Lomberg, for instance — are boldly speaking out. And naturally, Americans are seeking their writings and musings for climate and energy issues.

Townhall readers interested in following Alex’s work can do so here and connect with him on Twitter.

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