Peter Rustad Responds to Alex Epstein’s “Why Oil is Good for the Planet”
The belief that humans are altering the earth’s climate is a well established fact amongst the scientific community. Very few credible scientists contest this, and those scientists who do are very often funded by industries that have a vested interest in discrediting climate science, i.e. fossil fuel companies. However, as me and my peers just realized at Michigan State University, the so-called “debate” about climate change has become so depraved both morally and intellectually, that accredited scientists are no longer even necessary in order to stoke of fire of dissent and outright denial about this issue that already has and will continue to affect every human on the planet.
On May 8th, self-proclaimed philosopher Alex Epstein came to MSU to give a lecture/discussion about why he believes that fossil-fuels are not only good for the environment, but why they must also be developed more vigorously in the future in order for humanity to thrive. Mr. Epstein’s argument rested on the core pillar that the quality of life for the ordinary human has been vastly increased by fossil fuels since the dawn of the industrial revolution. He presented a number of thought experiments to illustrate this notion. For example, if we were to go in a time capsule and travel back three hundred years, chances are that the average man or woman would have a high probability of dying before their fiftieth birthday due to an environmental cause such as unclean water or food shortage. Since the dawn of the industrial age when humans began to use fossil fuels extensively, causes of death such as these have decreased dramatically. All of Epstein’s argument up until this point is uncontroversial and would not illicit protest from myself or probably any other environmentalist. It is true that fossil fuels have been a huge part of the reason why humans have been so successful at thriving on this planet. However, it is after this point that Epstein’s argument transcends from historical logic to ludicrous sensationalism.
Epstein argues that we need to expand our use of fossil fuels in the future for two reasons: One, they have negligible environmental consequences, and two, they are the only way that we will be able to raise the standard of living for the non-negligible number of people who live in poverty on this planet. He grounds his argument on humanitarian principles such as raising people out of poverty while conveniently shrugging off the huge number of people who are suffering from major environmental crises instigated by the use of fossil fuels today, not to mention the always growing pile of evidence that the problems we face today will only be exacerbated at an increasing rate in the future. For Mr. Epstein, climate change and the litany of other environmental problems which have majorly interfered with the ability for humans to do things as simple as grow crops and obtain clean water, are deniable with a simple refusal to accept evidence that stands contrary to his own beliefs. When asked about the implementation of more sustainable renewable forms of energy, he flat out stated that there is no such thing as renewable energy. He claimed that the metal used in solar panels and wind turbines are being produced by the earth less quickly than fossil fuels, therefore no energy is truly renewable. For some reason, he neglected to address the fact that when built, solar panels and wind turbines yield electricity for years, if not decades, and that if there was a technical issue with any one unit, metal is a lot more easily recyclable than coal ash.
Perhaps the most disturbing point of Epstein’s argument was his apparent concern for only the immediate future. True, not even the most idealistic environmentalist could possibly believe that our global society could convert to a completely renewable energy infrastructure immediately. Fossil fuels regrettably will be a major part of our lives for years to come. But conversely, not even the most ardent oil and coal advocate could possibly believe that fossil fuels are the long term solution, right? Fossil fuels are nonrenewable sources of energy, which by definition means that they will run out someday. This is a completely uncontroversial statement, but its implications do not concern Mr. Epstein. When I asked him about this looming disaster that certainly will occur if we follow his advice, he failed to answer me directly and instead pointed to the aforementioned un-sustainability of traditional renewable sources of energy.
Mr. Epstein believes that he conveys a humanitarian message, but I find very little humanity in an argument that supports the removal of people’s right to grow food and drink clean water. As I stated before, nobody believes that the road to sustainability will be easy or short; it will be a long and protracted struggle against opposing players who vastly out-gun us in both financial and organizational resources. The immensity of our goal is astonishing and intimidating. However, as my MSU colleague put it so succinctly after the presentation, Alex Epstein and people of his nature are relics of the past attempting to re-vitalize a dying beast as the march of time pushes it further into oblivion. I will not resign myself into futility by accepting Mr. Epstein’s argument that an unsustainable resource is our species only hope. There is no long term future for fossil fuels, and those who cling to the foregone notion that there is, are doomed to live in a world of deceit and ultimately, disappointment.
Kick Off Meeting!
Hey all! Spring Semester is here and our first meeting of the semester is coming up!!
So if you were thinking about joining, or just what to see what we’re all about come kick it with us January 21 at 8pm (Next Monday)!!!
The room is TBA, but I’ll follow up with you all later with the rest of the details!
Hope to see you there!
SUCCESS! Levi’s, the world’s biggest jeans producer, commits to toxic-free fashion!
YOU told Levi’s to Go Forth and Detox and they have listened. Thank you all for taking action. Read more about this win for people power and the environment: http://bit.ly/TXNMVR