For some people the idea of putting a moral case for fossil fuels is on a par with expounding the moral case for the tobacco industry. But Alex Epstein takes on the challenge in his recent book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” and presents a series of reasons – some moral, some simply practical – why he thinks that there are strong reasons for us to feel that our levels of fossil fuel consumption are a good, rather than a bad thing. He does this by pointing out the strong correlation between levels of fossil fuel consumption and a range of societal benefits such as GDP growth, birth rate, life expectancy etc. And he also argues that the risks of burning fossil fuels – both from climate change and from other environmental impacts – have been grossly exaggerated.
Epstein’s book is almost one of a kind in terms of a modern book that actively promotes the advantages of fossil fuels, and actually ends with some recommendations on what the fossil fuel industry can do to improve its public profile. Much more common are books which put the industry in a bad light. Ken Silverston’s “The Secret World of Oil” looks at the murky world of big oil deals and politics, while Nicholas Shaxon’s “Poisoned Wells: the Dirty Politics of African Oil” focuses on West Africa. And a more academic approach to the so-called “resource curse” which plagues some oil producing countries (but not others) can be found in Michael L. Ross’s “The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations” . Whether one looks on the fossil fuel industry as a boon or a curse, however, it is not something that can be ignored. The latest Energy Outlook to 2035 published by oil giant BP indicates that, on the basis of current trends, the share of fossil fuels in the world’s energy mix will still be over 80% in 2035.