The Global Energy Crisis: How to Avert a Human Catastrophe

by | Jun 30, 2022

Contrary to the dominant narrative, abandoning fossil fuels would turn the global energy crisis into a true human catastrophe.
Read Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less.

The current global energy crisis is hard to evade. We face the evidence daily: more than doubled gas prices, record-high power bills, soaring prices of food and other necessities, and looming blackouts and brownouts during summer heat waves and power cuts in winter.

The causes of the energy crisis are not equally obvious. The surging demand for energy in the post-pandemic recovery has been blamed, as has been Russia’s cutting off oil and gas exports in retaliation to the world’s sanctions for its unjust invasion of Ukraine.

Some environmental groups and media have mistakenly pointed fingers at failures to conserve energy and to ramp up production of renewable energy as the culprits of the current shortages. The oil, gas, and coal companies have been accused (notably, by Joe Biden) for not producing enough and for charging too much for the energy they do produce, and therefore, allegedly causing the shortages and price hikes.

Some media (such as Forbes and CNN) have recognized the recent years’ underinvestment in fossil fuels, motivated by governments’ and investors’ push for ‘clean’ (renewable) energy, as a deeper cause. But even these media don’t identify — and question the validity of — the fundamental cause of the energy crisis: the near-universal consensus that we are experiencing a catastrophic climate change caused by CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and the anti-fossil fuel campaign.

It is no wonder that the fundamental cause of the energy crisis beyond the underinvestment in fossil fuels and the push for ‘clean’ energy are not questioned. We are constantly told by most media – who get it from the universities (and some activist scientists), environmental activists, political leaders, and major corporations – that we must stop using fossil fuel energy and decrease CO2 emissions to “net-zero,” lest we want to destroy life on earth, including our own.

But this mainstream narrative ought to be challenged—because it is leading to a true human catastrophe: the end of cost-effective, reliable energy that our survival and flourishing depend on.

This narrative is being challenged by Alex Epstein in his new book: Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less.

With meticulous research, Epstein shows that the anti-fossil-fuel and anti-human narrative is false. The one-degree Celsius increase in the global temperature aided by fossil-fuel-powered industrialization over the past 170 years is not leading to a climate crisis. The currently near all-time-low CO2 levels are not polluting our environment but fertilizing plant growth. The fossil fuels’ side effects (such as pollution and increasing CO2) are either manageable or negligible—and their benefits massive.

The world currently depends on fossil fuels for 80% of its energy needs, and no reliable, affordable, and readily available substitutes yet exist.

Epstein shows based on both current and historical evidence that in this context, abandoning fossil fuels would have disastrous consequences. It would:

  • collapse productive agriculture. No effective fertilizers (derived from natural gas) and no machine energy would mean insufficient food production and famines in many parts of the world.
  • destroy industrial production, eliminating poverty-ending manufacturing jobs and affordable consumer goods (cell phones, personal computers, household appliances, cars, etc.) that make our lives more productive and enjoyable.
  • jeopardize health care. Operating hospitals, clinics, and medical equipment requires reliable energy, plastics derived from petrochemicals, and the discovery and development of new treatments for diseases, made possible by time-saving machine labor.
  • prolong energy poverty for the 3 billion people who currently lack energy – and plunge the rest of us back into it.
  • make us vulnerable to the dangerous climate and reverse the 98% reduction in climate-related deaths achieved in the last 100 years with climate protection fossil fuels have afforded us.
  • degrade our environment and health through large-scale, highly polluting burning of biomass and animal dung for energy.

Contrary to the dominant narrative, abandoning fossil fuels would turn the global energy crisis into a true human catastrophe.

If we want to avert such a catastrophe and end the current energy crisis, we need to stop demonizing the fossil fuel companies and free them to produce the reliable, cost-effective energy on which our lives depend, without the fear of an arbitrary shutdown of their operations and the loss of their assets.

That, of course, would require recognizing that there is no climate crisis, and that while the climate is changing, we are capable of adjusting to it – thanks to reliable, affordable fossil fuel energy, or any other type of energy with similar qualities.

Read Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less.

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Jaana Woiceshyn teaches business ethics and competitive strategy at the Haskayne School of Business, University of Calgary, Canada. How to Be Profitable and Moral” is her first solo-authored book. Visit her website at profitableandmoral.com.

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