Alex Epstein is the founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and the author of two books, including his latest, Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas – Not Less, which will be released on May 24. In this episode, Epstein explains why hydrocarbons cannot be replaced anytime soon, why so many “designated experts” on energy and climate are wrong, the false belief in the earth as a “delicate nurturer,” and why we need more intellectual openness and energy humanism in the policy debate.
Robert Bryce 0:04
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce, on this podcast on this podcast. Let me start again. Three to one. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the power hungry Podcast. I’m Robert Bryce. On this podcast we talk about energy, power, innovation and politics. And today, I’m pleased to welcome Alex Epstein for the second time to the power hungry podcast. Alex, welcome to the power hungry podcast.
Alex Epstein 0:28
Great to be here.
Robert Bryce 0:29
So we’re gonna talk about your new book. It’s called fossil future why global, human flourishing.
Alex Epstein 0:36
I just got the final pretty version so people can see how long?
Robert Bryce 0:39
Yeah, so you can see I’ve marked yours up quite a bit here. Why global human flourishing requires more oil, coal and natural gas, not less. So there’s a lot to talk about. And I’ve got a bunch of notes that as you know, guests on this podcast introduce themselves. So if you don’t mind, please, I’ve introduced you as an author of this book, but you have some other things you want to talk about? Tell us who you are, please.
Alex Epstein 1:02
I didn’t even remember that. Actually. So. But yeah, I think of myself first and foremost as a philosopher. So I’m really interested in like, what are the underlying ideas that shape our conclusions about everything else? And I think this will come up in fossil future. So in particular, what are our thinking methods? Like? How do we think about things? What are our basic assumptions about the world? And then really, crucially, what are our values? And what I found is when I got into energy, when I started realizing how important energy was, I really objected to the implicit philosophy that a lot of stuff was was being evaluated by, like, just as one example. I think it’s crazy that with fossil fuels, we tend to totally ignore the huge benefits of them, and then very much overstate the negative side effects. And I was just at a conference recently, and it’s just amazing to me how much this comes up. So for example, drought, people are saying, Oh, my gosh, fossil fuels are going to cause drought problems. And they don’t mention the fact that we are 100 times safer, drought related deaths than we used to be, in large part because of fossil fueled irrigation, and fossil fueled transportation. So imagine you evaluate a prescription drug, the way you evaluated fossil fuels, you would never take any drug ever, because you would just look at the side effects and not the benefit. So that’s it’s really the philosophy that I think led me to distinctive conclusions. And then I spent the last 15 years learning all the facts, because obviously, the facts you can’t apply philosophy.
Robert Bryce 2:25
Sure. So we’ve talked before and you’ve been on the on the podcast, but you published your first book, The moral case for fossil fuels back in 2014. And now, yes, we’re eight years later. So what’s happened since the moral case? And and and then two other questions that are related? Why this book and why now? Yeah,
Alex Epstein 2:46
since it’s unusual, you know, to write a it’s really a replacement for the moral case for fossil fuels. I mean, you can think of it as the moral case for fossil future. And,
Robert Bryce 2:56
and there’s so much it’s a lot longer. I have to tell here, it’s maybe double the labor double,
Alex Epstein 3:02
more than doubling, the first one was 60,000. This is 135,000. Right? So there’s so much that’s changed, I thought that updating that book would not do the issue justice. And I mean, one thing is there are so many more arguments against fossil fuels. And there used to be because there’s so much hostility. So one thing is I wanted to make sure I addressed all the arguments on people’s minds. The other thing is eight years is a lot of time to pass in the world of energy. And it’s very legitimate for people to think about, okay, well, here were the statistics from 2013. But what are the statistics now have things change, in particular, because we’re told a climate catastrophe has now been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. And to be we’ve been told that renewables ability to replace fossil fuels has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, that’s starting to come on unglued right now because of events in the world. But I thought that was really necessary. And then the title is really part of it. I thought there needed to be something really about the future fossil fuel. moral case for fossil fuels is more about the present and a bit about the past and a little about the future. But since we’re talking about 2050, I think there needed to be a book that was looking at, okay, what are our actual energy choices for 2015? And how do fossil fuels play in those into those and then the final thing is, you know, when I wrote moral case, for fossil fuels, I had six months to write the thing. Compared to now I didn’t know much about energy, and and how to explain it to people. And so I learned 10 times more about both energy and how to explain it to people. And I still thought this is the most important issue in the world for me to write about, that I’m qualified to write about, because energy is the industry that powers every other industry, and our thinking about it has gotten even worse. So I thought, yeah, I’m gonna do like a total replacement that’s far superior, versus say, writing a nuclear book, which I still want to do, but I think this is still the issue of our time. So let’s create the best possible resource to try to change thinking about it.
Robert Bryce 4:57
Interesting. Well, you you put it because You know, I’ve written a few books, but I, the idea of replacing the book that I’ve already written. I mean, I don’t think many people would think in those terms
Alex Epstein 5:08
and what you do in products and software, right? You think about like, oh, the iPhone versus the iphone four, those are two dramatically different machines, like the iphone four, was beautiful in terms of the text, the readability, and had a video camera that was HD, you know, the original one that didn’t have those capabilities. And so yeah, it’s not a usual thing. And I don’t think I’ll do it for all my future books. But I hope that this one, I think, I think this one is good enough in a few years where I just want to update it. But I thought, yeah, if it’s like the issue that you’re focused on, and you can do something much, much better, that can have a much bigger impact on the world. And why not do it?
Robert Bryce 5:43
Sure. So a couple of quick comments just off the top of my head as I was reading it, I’ve been reading it for the last few days. In some ways, it almost comes off as a textbook. And I don’t mean that as a pejorative way. But I mean, the way you it’s very systematic, kind of how you present the argument with bullet points. And, you know, issue one, issue two, Issue three. I mean, did you have that idea that it might be used in schools, I asked that it partly as an author, but also, just the way it was formatted was to me, I mean, different from your first book, but also, I guess, you repeatedly lay out arguments in a very structured way in a philosophical way, which I thought was was effective. But was that part of your aim from the beginning when you thought about it.
Alex Epstein 6:29
So when I’m writing this, I have two basic audiences in mind. So one is the person who is honest, but expects to disagree with me. And then the other is the person who agrees with me and wants to become more effective at presenting the message. And in both cases, I think one thing that’s very important is retained ability. That’s something I’ve thought about a lot more over the years, I find most nonfiction hard to retain that as you read it, but then it’s in it like goes over and you think, Wow, that was a great book. But then exactly what do I take away from that. And I think moral case had some issues that Now one way to solve that is you can do shorter stuff, which obviously I didn’t do it this book, but I do it say energy talking points.com, I try to create really condensed things that you can retain, or at least access. But in this case, I wanted to have a really clear architecture that people could remember. And so if you look at like parts two, part one is called framework, which we’ll talk about, but part two is called benefits. And part three is side effects. And so you have throughout the book, the structure of we need to look carefully at the benefits. And we need to look carefully at the side effects. And then part of framework is saying, we need to look at this from a human flourishing perspective, which is to say, when we’re looking at the world, which when we’re talking about fossil fuels, we’re usually talking about the world. Our goal is to advance human flourishing on Earth. And then it’s contrasted which what I think is that with what I think is the dominant goal, although often not stated, is to eliminate human impact on Earth. Right. And then the other thing is that is that this view that Earth is not a delicate nurture, like this nurturing, stable, sufficient, safe thing that exists in this delicate balance. And so our impact destroys it, and it’s going to destroy us. Rather, it’s wild potential that we need to intelligently impact a lot. Like, once you have it as okay, we haven’t we live on this kind of Earth, that’s wild potential, we want to advance human flourishing on it. What are the full benefits and side effects of this thing, fossil fuels that we’re taught to eliminate. And so as I as I go through, I try to just keep that big picture alive. And always be clear on okay, we’re talking about this benefit, we’re talking about this side effect. And so the text, I didn’t think of it as a textbook, but part of what textbooks are designed to do is actually to be retained. And also they’re designed to feel complete. And that was a big aspect of this that was different from moral case was the completeness. Right? And
Robert Bryce 8:53
also to be a reference, I guess, it’d be the way you know, as I read it, in the way you’re talking about it, your the way I perceive what you just said, is that you want to give ammunition to your allies, right? You want to you want it you want to convert the unconverted but you’re the converted, you want to make sure you give them as much as you can to, you know, as many talking points as many examples as you can. And you and love. I love me some footnotes. I’m glad I’m not making notes, but but it’s very well sourced. But let me let me jump to a point that I thought was, we’ve talked about moral case. In the first part of the book, you make a really important point, and it’s one that I make, and you know, several, I talk about it all the time is the issue of scale. Right. And so you talk about, you cite a speech that Al Gore gave in 2008, in which he said the US should have shouldn’t have fully decarbonize the electric grid by 2018. And it made me think of what John Kerry said and he just said it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been a point that has been made repeatedly under by the Biden administration and Biden said it on the campaign trail, Senator Secretary Granholm was said we’re going to decarbonize the electric grid now by 2035. Well, the scale of That is enormous, right? And if you just look at the amount of natural gas and coal we consume, it’s about 2600 terawatt hours per years how much we generate electricity we generate is equal to the all of the world’s nuclear reactors output. I mean, it’s just a gigantic amount of of electricity. But the point that you point this out how? Let me let me ask two questions. Why do what I consider otherwise very intelligent people such as Al Gore, John Kerry, Secretary Granholm making these kinds of arguments when they’re completely disassociated with any sense of the scale of the challenge? What, how, why is it that they’re, they’re doing this? Because it just seems like it’s so patently obvious, it’s not achievable? Why did they do it?
Alex Epstein 10:43
I think one big difference between the two of us and them is that we’re really interested in energy. Like we really like it, you find it fascinating. And most importantly, we think of it as very, very valued. If you look at those three people, none of them came to this issue with any real interest in energy. I mean, Granholm might be a partial exception. But what they’re really all about is they they have this idea that industry just quote, destroys the planet, you know, that human impact is bad, and it’s self destructive. And so the way they come to energy is the energy that we’re using today as a problem. And we need to get rid of it. And we need to replace it with something. But the with something is not the thing they’re interested in, and they have no particular knowledge of or passion about, or interest in, maybe that’s the most important. So you take like a Joe Biden, so maybe you don’t think he’s as intelligent as the others. But he comes in and what does he do, he shuts down a pipeline, and he bands, you know, leases on federal lands, he destroys the existing achievement, without any clarity about how he’s going to replace it, which is different than saying, Hey, I’ve got this really clear plan for how to replace it. And I’m going to implement that and show success. And then I’ll talk about getting rid of the previous thing. So I think it’s because they their primary focus is eliminating our impact versus advancing human flourishing broadly. And then they’re particularly not interested in how do you empower the world because as soon as you’re interested in empowering 8 billion people, you were struck by the fact that a the world is very much unempowered, you know, you talk about and I referenced this, you know, the low watt world, but so you’re just struck by that you’re struck by how important energy is, and you’re all struck by the scale of cost effective energy that fossil fuels today provide. And if you think for a moment about what it takes to replace that with something dilute, nevermind, intermittent, you know that the mining requirements are cosmic compared to anything that has ever occurred. And the idea of doing a crash program of that, in an anti development environment, is it seems insane, and you are terrified by the idea that that would be used to replace phosphorus untested stuff on an unprecedented scale of infrastructure and mining in an anti development environment, you would be like, and we’re going to ban fossil fuels for that, which is completely impossible at our work. But yet, you notice, it’s not just these guys, the academics that you sometimes attack and I attack a lot like Jacobson, and Jenkins, and these guys, they’re all doing this, right, they’re proposing something that has never been done. That involves an unprecedented scale of mining and, and infrastructure that’s done on a crash timetable, which always makes things expensive. And that’s done in an anti development environment, which you’ve been a good good at pointing out. This, it makes it not work even just that all the opposition to this high impact stuff. But so my conclusion is they don’t really care about energy, that concern about energy, these plans are just a smokescreen for their desire to destroy the established thing. And that’s what they’re confident.
Robert Bryce 13:46
Well, so you but you make this anti humanist argument as well. But let me come back to that in just a minute. So let me I’m gonna make Have you make this point. So how much how much global energy is now coming from wind and solar?
Alex Epstein 14:00
And roughly about three 3% out of
Robert Bryce 14:03
it and our consumption is what is it 260 270 million barrels of oil equivalent per day? So this is you know, in terms of the scale still 3% This is This is de minimis but you’re but I think your point here is you’re gonna get critical and you don’t go out much into land use which is where I’ve been living in for a long time but I think the mining issue and that that idea I think you said it well there is that it’s unprecedented in terms of the the scale of what they’re proposing but it’s also the speed that with which they’re claiming to be done is has no connection with the physical world and that’s the part where I guess I economic world, right but it just chaps my hide that there’s no consensus or no notes, no recognition of what the physical constraints on the systems are systems as systems and what that what that what that transition, what that what changing it would entail is the part that is the sticking point for me just over I
Alex Epstein 14:55
think it’s because there’s no an approximate thing is there’s no real in interest in this because again, I I really think it’s important these factors that I mentioned, because you have all these people claiming or they’re not that many people but they’re very influential like Jacobson and Jenkins, etc. And these are you know, you’re
Robert Bryce 15:13
at elite universities. Yeah. Stanford, Princeton, Cal Berkeley, you we all know who they are, and
Alex Epstein 15:18
then somebody like Destler, right? Energy ignoramus will be like, Oh, well, I saw a peer reviewed study. And this showed that, you know, you can, this guy planned the whole energy future for the next 30 years. And so we should trust that since it got peer reviewed, even though of course, peer review, also said Jacobson is totally full of it, and totally wrong. But
Robert Bryce 15:36
just to be clear, that’s Andrew Destler, from Texas a&m, who evaded it at the steamboat Institute. Yeah. And was on Joe Rogan, and
Alex Epstein 15:45
misled him 11 million people being on that on that show. But you can just see, just if you look at what they’re claiming to do, they’re claiming to do all these things that we know for a fact add huge costs, and they’re claiming to know precisely the cost. And that it’s looks again, totally things that have never been done. So like Jacobson talks about hydrogen planes, which we don’t have at all. And it’s like, oh, but he’s putting a number on that. And he knows that they can be scaled, right? Or these massive networks of solar wind and batteries, which have never been done at all and don’t work anywhere. But then also, you’re doing a huge amount, an unprecedented amount of mining, and infrastructure on a crash timetable. And anytime you do something on a crash timetable, your costs skyrocket in unpredictable ways. And then on top of that, you’re in an anti development environment set, which is guaranteed to make it more expensive as you’ve documented. So just those three facts about doing about having something that’s never been done, we know, that adds cost and you can’t do it specifically, in an unprecedented amount of development. That’s number two on a crash timetable, you know, that adds costs, and then an anti development environment that adds potentially unlimited costs, and you act like oh, I have an exact number, and it’s going to be really cheap. You know, that is a fraud if you understand those three variables.
Robert Bryce 17:01
And yet this this, this idea has been you talked about Amory Lovins as well, who’s been promoting this same idea now for 50 years, and then wrong. 50 been wrong for 50 years, but at least he’s been consistent. But let’s talk about Bill McKibben, because you also mentioned him several times you’ve debated it, you’ve debated him, so have I. I’ve invited him on the podcast three times. He never replied. But you wrote them in 1998. McKibben, I’m quoting here endorsed a scenario of outlawing 60% of fossil fuels to slow in, quote, climate change, and that doing so would reduce each human to less than two tonnes of co2 per year. You talk about Mckibben among the designated experts. And you point, particularly to John Holdren and Amory Lovins. They’ve been wrong for a long time. But why aren’t there these projections held to account and in fact, I see Mckibben promoting Mark Jacobson’s work it repeatedly in the New York, in the New Yorker, and I’m thinking, Well, wait a minute, you’re promoting this guy whose work has been debunked? You don’t you won’t debate to talk about why you’re doing this. I guess what, why aren’t they held to account? Where are these projections held to account where it why is there such a great lack of accountability? Because Mckibben is an academic as well. He’s a he’s at Middlebury College.
Alex Epstein 18:18
I would also say Jacobson has been debunked by other charlatans in my view. So he’s like the Charlatan of charlatans. He’s not even I don’t even he’s actually kind of a nice guy on Twitter. But like he, they’re all these other everyone who claims that they can have this revolutionary plan for how a totally unprecedented thing on a crash timetable of unprecedented development. We’re in an anti development environment, anyone who claims they have a low cost, predictable price for that is a fraud. Like, in my view, full stop. So anyone who engages in that endeavor, is I consider a charlatan, but then even within those people, they’re like, Okay, Jacobson, you went too far, this doesn’t make any sense, what you said. And so there was that whole thing with them? So there’s a question of why are they there? Let’s let me first explain designated experts, because that’s a new term that I’ve introduced. And I think it’s important that, you know, when we’re told the experts say, x, we what we think is that all the researchers who are studying this have somehow come to some amazing, unanimous consensus. And then that has been revealed to us this is wrong in many ways, including that all all actions have to do with values. So no researcher can tell you what to do independent of value. So anytime you think researchers are just telling you, here’s what to do about COVID, or climate or something that’s invalid, right? Because you need you need to actually think through the values and you need to think through other factors. So that’s one thing. But the other thing is that even on the factual issues, the non value issues, there’s a whole process by which knowledge comes from the researchers, even if they’re even right, which sometimes they are, you know, a lot of times they are sometimes they’re not, but there’s a whole process of synthesizing that and disseminating that and bringing that to us and what we rely on or what I call designated experts. So these are people who are treated as the spokesman for all the best researchers and all the best thinking. And what’s notable about these people is they have an unbelievably bad track record of prediction, and prescription. So we’re talking about so prescription means they’ve proposed things that have, you know, shortened billions of lives. But the prediction is, I think part of what you’re talking about is, yeah, why I mean, they make these crazy claims about the world is going to end and then the world gets better. And they keep saying we were right. But we were premature. That’s what they always say, like Ehrlich has been around for over 50 years, saying the world is going to edit, he’s still I have a 2019 paper that I cite, where he is one of the leading designated experts saying we have this climate emergency and we got to get rid of fossil fuels. But he’s been saying this for 50 years. And we still listen to him. And so I think the basic reason is because we have a certain philosophical framework that expects those people to be right and in particular, with the catastrophizing. It’s the idea that the earth that human impact is inevitably self destructive, because the earth is this delicate nurture. So if we impact it, it’s got to punish us. Just like you know, in religion, you think that if you violate the gods prescriptions, you are going to go to hell. So this is a very, it’s a secularized, but it’s very religious. And it’s actually a primitive religion, I would argue, and then the other thing people think is human impact is immoral. And so McKinnon’s whole thing is, it’s wrong for us to be impacting nature, we shouldn’t do this. And I think he gets a lot of moral stature because that’s regarded as a moral ideal. So they both have this false view that Earth is development nurturer. And also that Earth is like, sacred or godlike, and we shouldn’t impact it morally. And those those make us think, Oh, these are good designated experts. And they must be right, even though they’re always wrong.
Robert Bryce 21:46
Well, let’s follow up on that. Because I think that’s a key point as well. And it’s one that I’ve thought about, as well, this idea of climate, tourism and climate catastrophism as a secular religion, that, and it fits very neatly with this, the framework around Christianity that, you know, we’ve sinned, right, and we’re sitting with this what sin is against Earth, and there’s only one way of redemption. And that’s to go back to the garden to just you all technology and go back to our primitive self. And and Mckibben makes this point about, you know, a week, we, you know, less than 1.9 tonnes per year. And then there was the well, let me find the citation. There was the great line from the review of, of McKinnon’s book that was published in the LA Times by Graber right in which he says he hopes for a a virus,
Alex Epstein 22:41
right virus to come along
Robert Bryce 22:43
the right come along, and I thought, holy cow, you’re looking for mass, a mass mortality event you hate people that much that and love the Earth, as this as you say, delicate nurture this and you know, going back to the garden, that you want to see a mass die off of humans, who are you? Who are these people? I mean, it you make this point over and over? And I think it’s one of the fundamental points in your book is that you’re that understanding why hydrocarbons matter is that the there’s an anti human very fundamental anti human agenda at work here and is that that seems like almost the antithesis antithesis of the Christian ideal, right, which is every human has value and that yet and it has a lot of the the trappings of religion, but it’s fundamentally anti human, which is the anti, the anti view are the opposite of with a Judeo Christian belief system. How do you square that? Or
Alex Epstein 23:43
is it is interesting, yeah, what the relationship is, but I would describe it as it is an it’s definitely an anti human religion, and then also a primitive religion. So the primitive part is the delicate nurture part, like Earth is not a delicate nurture at all. Earth is dynamic, deficient, and dangerous. It’s wild potential. It’s not stable, sufficient and safe. That’s why we have a life expectancy of 30. Throughout history. Life was terrible by our standards for the average person like this, this deifying of Earth is just totally ridiculous. And it’s only a primitive view, where you basically think, Oh, if something goes wrong, it’s because I I angered the sun god or the rain, I mean, that’s basically that kind of,
Robert Bryce 24:24
and we know and now you’re gonna pay and now you’re gonna not only you’re gonna pay you’re gonna burn in hell and yeah, like Kebun even makes that point in one of his books that it’s gonna be very much like hell, right? And this is
Alex Epstein 24:35
of a similar temperature. So there’s that. But then there’s also so you know, in kind of Judeo so I’m not religious at all, but in Judeo Christian religion, you have like a pretty pro human view relative, certainly a pro human view with respect to our environment, which is my main focus right in my work and in this book, so the idea is that the human is inferior to the supernatural being by But it’s like it, the human being is by far the most important thing in nature. And so there’s, you know, be fruitful and multiply and these different kinds of things. So when it comes to the relationship between them, between human beings and the rest of nature, there’s this idea that we want to act in a way that’s beneficial to the humans. And this is sometimes misinterpreted as you hate nature. But it’s not that at all, it’s you want a beneficial relationship with the rest of nature. So certain parts of nature, you want to subdue certain parts you want to enjoy certain parts you just don’t want to interact with. But it’s having this pro human value approach. So you can think of it as you’re you’re trying to advance human flourishing on Earth. But the modern environmental religion is to say our goal is to eliminate human impact on earth. Because an unimpacted Earth is like a god. And that’s the thing that we need to sacrifice to. And so the number one commandment is Thou shalt not impact the Earth. And the expectation is, if you do that, you’re going to be punished and that’s where delicate nurture comes in. So it’s like eliminating human impact as the goal is like, Thou shalt not impact nature. And then the delicate nurture is like the is the practical retribution, that God of nature is going to punish us,
Robert Bryce 26:08
right? Because we pissed him off, and you hear this all the time, I’m gonna get paid, you’re gonna get you’re gonna get you’re gonna have to pay. But here’s the part that you know when I thought about this, you know, I just was in in Pennsylvania and I went to Hawk Mountain sanctuary, and I’m an avid birdwatcher proud bird watcher and have been,
Alex Epstein 26:26
I’ve recently gotten I’ve recently become kind of obsessed with birds. So I finally get it, like birds are the most amazing.
Robert Bryce 26:32
Oh, they’re incredible. I hope you have a good pair of binoculars. If you don’t, then you’re engaged. Get Cassandra get get two identical pair. I prefer the monarch, the Nikon Monarch sevens, they’re about $500, get two identical pair and get a good get a couple of girls, I have a whole shelf full of bird books. But we’re getting off. We’re getting on a tangent here. But this idea that we have to protect the Earth and the solution is renewables, which are the antithesis, antithesis of natural environmental protection, I was at Hawk Mountain back to where we started. And it’s an amazing place and near Kempton, Pennsylvania, about an hour north of reading, incredible and famous for the hawk migrations through there. And I got there, and I was looking at the VISTA and you can see for miles and miles, and I was and I put something on Twitter just yesterday and on YouTube, joking that oh gee, if only we had a bunch of wind turbines out there, and damned if I didn’t, and damned if I didn’t look to the north and the ridge on the north about oh, I guess maybe 10 or 15 miles to the north northwest align of wind turbines. And here’s the part that to me is just the one that is irreconcilable conflict. And this idea that you’re talking about the delicate nurture, we have to return to the earth. And the prescriptions that they’re putting forward with solar and wind require paving vast amounts of the natural world with these monstrous wind turbines that kill bats and birds. And I’m thinking what are you doing? That’s an irreconcilable conflict within this belief system itself. Does that run with you? No, will tell me why? Well,
Alex Epstein 28:01
it definitely appears to be and there’s a certain kind of contradiction. But if you really get, like, if you really say that human impact is evil, the implication of that is all other impact is good. So it’s really that you’re singling out humans. So it’s really it people mistake the modern environmental religion as a love of nature. It’s not that at all, because part of a love of nature is from whose perspective it has to be from someone’s perspective. And so it’s not from humans perspective, if you hate humans, so it’s not about you want to let human beings enjoy these beautiful birds and these things, it’s not that you want to preserve nature for humans, if you want to preserve it, it from human. So let me get to you might say, well, you even but what how do you care? How does that compare with these wind turbines and solar panels and all the mining and transmission lines. But it’s really that those are, what those are, is those are a pretext for getting rid of industry and fossil fuels. So they are an excuse. So they the only source of energy, the environmental movement of the modern has ever supported is imaginary energy. So they always say like, oh, we support nuclear, but the nuclear is practical. We oppose it. We support gas. Oh, no, wait, now we hate it. It’s called fracking. Right? They always, they’re always clear about what they want to destroy, but they always need a fantasy about the future to pretend that they’re pro human, and pro energy. And so what solar and wind are is that fantasy. Now part of the fantasy is you have to let a few of these things get built. But then what happens when they get built as if they know we don’t like these either. They have all this impact. Who could have known? Right? They act like they didn’t know about this impact, but now they’re focused on Oh, yeah, I shouldn’t be killing the birds. It’s taking up too much space. Let’s not do it here. And so ultimately, it’s anti energy and that’s why a lot of the environmental people are the most hostile people. So the key is, the Green Movement is an anti energy movement to be anti impact is to be anti energy. And this current paving and destruction of nature, that’s just like a that’s like a downpayment on the on the goal of destroying fossil fuels. But they’re totally happy to destroy solar wind. And if solar wind wherever practical, of course, they would go after them. Can you imagine Greenpeace and Sierra Club being like, oh, yeah, we love these solar panels. No, no, they would not.
Robert Bryce 30:12
They don’t stand up. I mean, this is one of the remarkable things I’ve written about this, the next era prosecution by the Department of Justice for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and they should have been, they should have been charged with felony violations of the bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. They weren’t, but not a single one. And I don’t call them environmental groups anymore. They’re activist groups. And they’re, I don’t even call them green anymore. The activists, they’re in the part of the NGO industrial complex, not one of them spoke up not one except for the American bird Conservancy, which I quite admire. They’ve been very consistent. But let me go back. We could go on and on about that. Because, you know, I’ve spent a lot of time outside I spent a lot of time birdwatching and the the, the blind kind of acceptance of the slaughter of our birds and bats by the wind industry is just disgusting to me on so many levels, but it’s the most disgusting that we don’t have any of these activist groups speaking up for them they’ve been, I don’t I don’t get it. But anyway, I think they’re paid
Alex Epstein 31:06
off temporarily. So I think what happens is temporarily, you know, these are also business. So I think, the anti impact groups, and but they’re also businesses that have multi 100 million dollar budgets often. And so those practical considerations do dominate for a time, but ultimately, they’re always going after like the biggest industrial whale of the time. And so you know, for awhile was a nuclear, its fossil fuels, but they that you see these smaller groups do go after some of these local things and say, not in my backyard and that kind of thing.
Robert Bryce 31:38
Right. But those local groups, I mean, generally what I found, particularly when it’s the opposition to wind and solar, it’s women working at their kitchen tables or in rural rural counties, rural communities, just trying to protect the, the their communities from the encroachment of these projects. And in my view, those are the real environmentalists, because they’re concerned about if you’d like everyone concerned about their neighbors. But I found the quote from David Graber, this was in his review of one of McKinnon’s books and it talks it’s following on your delicate nurture idea. But he’d said that graver says a Graber David engraver, he says Mckibben is a bio centrist and so am I, we are not interested in the utility of a particular species or flowing river or ecosystem to mankind, they have intrinsic value more value to me than another human body, or a billion of them. human happiness and certain human fecundity are not as important as a wild, unhealthy planet. Until such time as Homo sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along. I mean, it’s just as a gob smacking statement. But
Alex Epstein 32:45
here’s the interesting thing about that is, of course, the right virus did come along a couple of years ago, right. But what was the number one reaction to it from the environmental community was to say, this is environmentally good, right? They said like the environment had a great year. That’s what they said about 2020. Like, it
Robert Bryce 33:01
was amazing, because co2 or the environment down, right,
Alex Epstein 33:05
but also because humans didn’t impact. So that really crystallizes the environmental philosophy, like again, as your goal is your environmental philosophy. I want to advance human flourishing on earth or in any particular environment, or do I want to eliminate human impact. And clearly, the goal is to eliminate human impact, because a total global human tragedy was regarded as environmentally good. And this is why I don’t separate like the human and the nonhuman with environment, I think of just the world as our environment. And I talk about it that way. And so I think it’s environmentally bad from a human perspective for a bunch of humans to die from a virus I think, I think an environment with COVID-19 and no way of dealing with it is a worse environment. But they thought of it as a better environment. Just take note of that ever. They thought in an environment, a world with COVID-19 spreading around, and no way to deal with it is a better environment than a world without it. So that just shows you perfectly that they have an anti human view of environment.
Robert Bryce 34:05
So let me let me shift a little bit here and talk about what you we’ve talked about delicate nurture. And you say that many of the it’s page 220 If I’m got it right here, you say the world’s leading corporations are being enlisted as and I’m quoting here, propagandists and lobbyists for fossil fuel elimination. I don’t use the word propaganda very often. I’ve started to use it more lately because I see some very clear propaganda coming out from a media outlets that I have had long respected, including National Public Radio, I wrote a long piece in quillette about the propaganda that they’ve been putting out it that is and that is pro wind energy. I mean, just blatant propaganda. But you talk about cut to the chase here. You talk about Apple and this, the what I would call is their greenwashing. And you say, in the realm of electric electricity, Apple is nowhere near 100% renewable that would be completely impossible with taste today’s technology and economics lead First of all, in China, where most of Apple’s manufacturing occurs and where 64% of electricity is from coal, these companies, these big tech companies have been very effective and very persistent in their marketing of use of renewables. Why do you object to that? And what are the specific issues that are that are most, most objectionable to you?
Alex Epstein 35:21
Well, in general, I object to just incredible lying to the public, I just tend to,
Robert Bryce 35:27
well, there’s that.
Alex Epstein 35:29
But in particular, this is a this is a very dangerous lie, because it’s coming from very respected, a rightly respected group of companies and institutions, which are institutions that are regarded as technological leaders in the world, rightly regarded in many ways as technological leaders in the world. And they are telling the world hey, we are 100%, renewable. And so what happens is when something like green new deal comes along, and I say a weak, America can be 100%, renewable, the world can be 100%, renewable, people looked at both, and they say, well, apples doing it. So if Apple is doing it, and they’re doing great, why can’t we do it? And just to give give a sense of the lie here, what happens is they the 100%, renewable literally involves, we have all these grids, there are a mixture of different things, none of them are ultimately dominated by solar wind, the ones that seem to be totally depend on their reliable neighbors, but nothing is even resembling 100%. anywhere even declared. We can leave aside Iceland for a second. That’s but that’s not solar and wind at all. That’s that’s fuel, hydro and hydro geothermal scale around the world in many places. But so they mean solar and wind. So what happens in the solar wind, importantly, are parasites on what I call the reliables because the reliables have to go up and down to totally give life support to solar wind. So what they do is they pay the grid to give them credit for everyone else’s solar and wind to give everyone else the blame for their coal, gas and nuclear electricity. So it’s just a total scam, but it’s called renewable electricity credits. But it’s just it. But literally, you pay to get credit for other people’s renewable electricity use. So this is it’s a, it’s a I consider it fraud, I still think there should be a class action lawsuit, because they are trying to get more customers by telling the customers that our product is more ethical, because it’s 100%. Renewable. And it isn’t. So any class action, any of the good moral class action lawyers out there. However many of you there are, you should take up this cause and I am happy for you to make all the money on it. As long as we get some energy accuracy.
Robert Bryce 37:40
Well, I agree in Amazon, I wrote a piece about Amazon who was a year or more ago, and I asked about their you know, they weren’t they wouldn’t would not release their carbon, their total carbon emissions. Right? It was, oh, well, our transport is too complicated. That was the answer that I got. Oh, it’s too complicated. And meanwhile, Jeff Bezos is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to the environmental groups, none of which have done any criticism of Amazon that I’ve seen. So you know, remarkable. This is
Alex Epstein 38:03
the business. I mean, these are huge businesses. And yeah, he gave, notably, and I really admire Bezos, as a producer, I think he’s one of the greatest, like, productive achievers of all time. It’s It’s really sad to see they did this, but he in particular, gave 100 million to World Wildlife Fund, and 100 million to National Resources Defense Council, which are both anti fossil fuel and anti nuclear. So they’ve been that I just thought was beyond the pale.
Robert Bryce 38:26
Yeah, well, I’m with you. So let’s talk about nuclear for a minute. I had another question to tee up here. But you talked about nuclear being criminalized. And I think that that’s close to the right word. And you know, you and I spend a lot of time thinking, what’s the difference in the right word and the wrong word? Yeah. But in the United States, is that under the Biden administration, the NRC has been very clearly I would argue, anti AI, not argue, I think they’ve been very clearly anti nuclear. So what’s the way forward on that? Because I’ve thought about this written about it a lot. What needs to happen on nuclear? Because I can, you know, I think climate change is a concern. I don’t think it’s the only concern, but I’m adamantly pro nuclear, because of its small footprint. And that’s what to me is the ideal. We need small footprints when it comes to energy production. So what needs to happen on nuclear? Where does that need to go?
Alex Epstein 39:16
It needs to be liberated in one form or another. And this is one of my next big projects as I’m working on an energy freedom platform. And one of the key elements is decriminalizing nuclear, and how do you do that? So I call it criminalization because it is essentially impossible to build a nuclear power plant at all cost effectively. Today, and you know, the nuclear, basically the nuclear, the nuclear criminalized services, the NRC, I need an RF like you know, something for the Are there going to be the nuclear something criminalized because, you know, since they’ve been established 1975, so five years before I was born, there established and not one plant has gone from conception to completion under their watch, so it’s just become completely impossible to do yet we know that we had pretty cost effective plants in the 70s that it’d be built relatively quickly, before this regime, the plants did not turn out to be safe to be less safe than expected. I think they turned out to be more safe. It’s the safest technology. So you need, you need radical reform. And the first thing is to just decide what those reforms are. And that’s part of what I’m doing. And then I do have a lot of officers who are interested in doing so I think I think the missing piece in the nuclear movement has been really concrete policy proposals, they tend to focus on perception and say, Okay, well, we need to change perception first. And then once everyone likes nuclear, then we’ll propose some policies. But that doesn’t work. And people like nuclear quite a bit. And it’s pretty easy to convince people if you’ve got a good policy that has all these advantages, I think you can change the perception pretty easily. So I’m very focused on what’s the right policy, and then working with elected officials to promote it.
Robert Bryce 40:49
Well, I think it’s absolutely critically important. And I think that, you know, the the war in the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has really crystallized a lot of this. And I’ve been encouraged by Gavin Newsom there in your home state of California now saying he wants to save Diablo Canyon, Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan saying the same that she wants to save Palisades. I hope this is an inflection point. But we will see
Alex Epstein 41:10
but that’s still saving. That’s that’s good not to shut these things down. But think about I was talking to some people in Arizona about this, you know, they have Palo Verde, which is this amazing nuclear plant. And, but they would not even consider building a new one, even though this amazing achievement is but it’s notable to show just how, but why these are already, you know, the existing fleet is really good technology. I think we can have better technology. But we have really good technology, we know how to do it better. And yet, it’s impossible to do cost effectiveness. That’s purely a government issue. We didn’t run out of uranium, for sure. Right? We didn’t run out of concrete. So it’s really the it’s really all about all about the policy. But one point I’m making fossil futures. Unfortunately, we do live in a world where nuclear has been criminalized. I think most of the really good innovation has to come from a relatively free place. I think like a dictatorship, like China’s not going to innovate nearly as much as, as we will. And so this is part of why I say it’s a fossil future, because nuclear is not going to really rapidly scale up. Look, I wish I in a sense wish, in a very real sense. I wish these criminalization things hadn’t happened in the 70s. And we could have a nuclear renaissance right now. But we’re not going to have one for a while because we need a lot of policy change. That’s hard enough to do. And then you have to scale this up. When we’ve had almost a decline in the industry. There aren’t as many people in nuclear engineering, it’s just we have nowhere near the scale of people of knowledge of all these kinds of things. So I want it to happen as quickly as possible. Right? It’s not going to save billions of people in the next 10 years.
Robert Bryce 42:43
Yeah, I tend to agree that even if we had some, you know, set go now and we had the reactor that everyone agreed with is safe and deployable. It’s going to take a long time to deploy at scale. And that by that I mean they gigawatt and terawatt scale, and that’s But China is far ahead of the US. I think they’re building 42 reactors, we’re building two or 46. But let me read let me move on here to another point that I think is critical that you make in fossil future. And again, my guest is Alex Epstein. He’s the founder of the Center for industrial progress. And his new book. His second book is fossil future why he global human flourishing requires more oil, coal and natural gas out May 24. Is that right?
Alex Epstein 43:25
Two weeks from now? Yeah, I guess we’re on when we’re recording on Wednesday. So yeah, this is May 24, may 11.
Robert Bryce 43:30
But you see on page 3336, you talk about the climate knowledge system, and how it has every incentive to err on the side of extreme warming predictions. And he said, Here it is. Our climate knowledge system, including its research funding has a track record of denying climate mastery, denying co2 benefits and overstating side effects. And as every every incentive to side on the air on the side of extreme warming predictions, in part because the more warming models predict, the more today’s enormous amount of climate funding are defensible. You make the point that similar to what Roger Pilkey Jr. has made repeatedly that the most extreme scenario is the one that gets all the media coverage and gets a lot of coverage of it gets a lot of research reports the RCP 8.5 scenario which has this massive increase in coal production, coal consumption, that is nowhere in any way related to what is actually happening now. So what’s the I’ll ask you, you refer to it there in that section. But what’s the payoff? For the people who are making the most dire predictions? What is it that this makes them popular? The Michael Mann’s the people like this who are putting forward these extremist scenarios that are not based on plausible scenarios given what we know now what’s the payoff for them?
Alex Epstein 44:50
Let me explain it in terms of this, this term knowledge system, which I haven’t explained yet, so I talked about the climate knowledge system, and this is related to the issue of designated experts. So it’s, this is You have Where do these experts were told they are these experts conclusions? Where do the expert conclusions particularly about what to do come from. And the idea is that there are four stages until just say each stage and then give an incentive. So the main stage that we’re we associate expert knowledge with is the research stage where these are the people are actually looking at the world doing experiments, studying things in depth, etc. And even with that stage one point with climate is, even if everyone has the best motives in the world, that government has a clear demonstrated interest in catastrophic research. That’s why it’s funding the stuff in the first place. It’s not saying, Hey, we just really want to understand climate well, because we find it fascinating. They’re saying, we want to understand it, because we think there’s this huge threat. And some people really like the idea, many people like the idea of a huge threat, because then they get a huge amount of power to address the huge threat. So even if everyone in climate science, for the most honest, diligent person, just that filtering mechanism of funding goes toward catastrophic stuff means that there will be more catastrophe believers in the field than there would be naturally if that incentive wasn’t, wasn’t there. But then you have the next stage of synthesis. So you all there’s massive amount of research, how do you make it? And how do you condense it, and make it usable to people. And that’s what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does in the realm of climate. So they’re, they’re looking at all the research and they’re trying to synthesize it. But they also have a mandate of, we need to fight this catastrophe. That’s part of their mandate. And you can see if you look at them, they have huge omissions of crucial things I mentioned, they totally evade the massive decline and climate related disasters. So they don’t mention that even in their reports, let alone their summaries. So you can’t talk about climate and not mention that we’re safer than ever from it in 1000s of pages, and not be massively, massively biased. They also don’t talk about the benefits of fossil fuels beyond like, literally half a sentence. And they’re in their 1000s of pages, reports, and then they diminish it. So the synthesis can go wrong with synthesis can just omit stuff, even if the researchers are right. But here there’s bias for the researchers. And there’s much more than I’ve talked about. There’s bias by the synthesizers and an A disseminators are the people who are popular who are sharing the synthesized research with us like the New York Times and The Washington Post. Well, what incentives do they have there is the kind of if it bleeds, it leads type incentive, which I think you referred to, of just sensational stuff gets attention. But there’s also the political agenda incentive, which is these a lot of these papers tend to want more government power over the economy. And climate climate catastrophe is the ultimate justification, because it says that the fuel that all our machines use is destroying the world. And therefore we need to exact precise control over it. So people who want to save the world from industry, this is a perfect thing. And so when they see some IPCC Climate report, they’re going to be inclined to pick the parts that most justify government intervention, right. And then the final stage of the knowledge system is what I call the evaluators. They’re the ones who tell us what to do about the knowledge. And you can see here that the politicians, and certain columnist and opinion makers and stuff, if their inclination is they want more control, and they don’t like industry, again, they’re gonna, they’re gonna focus on only the negative things, and they’ll tend to overstate them, and not the positive. So you have somebody like two terrorists, the head of the UN, I think, is a total thug. And the idea that this guy could be hired is basically a communist, lifelong communist slash socialists, who’s running the allegedly the most important organization in the world. And so what he’ll say is, he says, Oh, we have a report and says, Code Red for humanity. And this needs to be the death knell for fossil fuels. And as bad as the report was, it didn’t say anything resembling that. But his view that it’s Code Red for humanity, and the death knell of fossil fuels, that’s what everyone spreads around. And so they but they’re all these incentives, including, again, this incentive to want more power. And then I would also say, if you believe in this green religion, this green philosophy, you also just have a hatred of human impact. And so that incentive is also there that you want to, you want to reduce or eliminate it. And therefore you’re always looking for ways in which it’s self destructive. Just like somebody who’s super religious with another religion will always look for ways in which God is punishing the evil doers. And so this is like they always want to show nature’s punishing us for doing evil.
Robert Bryce 49:21
And we have to hold those evil doers to account who will of course, and we saw that with the Democrats and it was the House committee that called the oil executives in to testify. Yeah, and, uh, well we’re gonna put you in the dock and make you answer questions when but that’s that’s part of the retribution part of the religious display, which How do you describe that there will explain that then build on that they’re, they’re gonna hold them to account when even when they’re providing a product that everyone uses to explain why. What was the motivation for that?
Alex Epstein 49:56
Well, part of it well, yeah, but what you said about the product everyone uses This is very salient here. And because you might think that they would be attacking all of us, because world actually like Chevron doesn’t force me to use gasoline or I don’t try to put, you know, my Uber driver or my fiancee to use gasoline, that right, they choose to do it. We’re asking Chevron to produce a product. When we you and I fly on a plane, we don’t say we want to use oil, we just say we want to fly. And Chevron raises their hand and say, well, we can help you fly. And guess what the battery people Tesla, they don’t say that right? They don’t raise their hand. So we’re choosing to use fossil fuels, these companies are only there, because of our demand for the most cost effective source of energy that we can find. But if it’s less effective to condemn everyone, then to condemn a minority of witches or evil doers. And so everyone in the culture kind of likes it or not ever, but a lot of people like it to have these specific witches. And what’s interesting is even among the industries, you have this, because what you see is what the automotive industry loves it that Chevron and Exxon Mobil get attacked, right? All the industries that are using huge amounts of energy. They don’t want to be the ones they don’t want to be the witches. They’re like, Oh, great, Exxon, Chevron, you guys are taking it. Okay. So the farm industry doesn’t have to take it. The chemical industry doesn’t have to take it. The paper industry does have the steel industry, or don’t know what it’s all about. It’s all about those oil companies. So they like everyone is incentivized to have this small group of witches that we can blame all of our sins on.
Robert Bryce 51:25
Well, let’s follow up on that just a little bit. Because when you’re saying that I’m thinking as well about the, you know, the attacks that have been on the oil and gas sector about the unconscionable profits, right? Oh, they’re making so much money, how dare them. And I’ve looked at this many times, and the profit margin as memory serves in oil and gas in general over the years has been about seven 8%, something like that. Where Facebook, Apple, some of these other companies are 2025 30%. I mean, their margins in the technology sector are vastly greater than in the oil and gas sector. And yet it’s somehow it to me indicates a an anti capitalist, right, a sporadic or sip, or what is it selective anti-capitalism That only applies to these? I think witches is a is the I hadn’t thought about what it Mike worth. And that was the head of Darren woods at Exxon Mobil that they’re the modern witches because they produce hydrocarbons.
Alex Epstein 52:24
Yeah, I think so. Um, so wait, what was the question? So there’s the anti capitalist element,
Robert Bryce 52:29
right? There’s an anti capitalist. I’m just riffing here. But let me move on to something else, because I’m talking more than I should. And you’re the one with a new book. So let me let me move to the point you make on page 336? No, no, no, this is the thing you talked about. Toward the end of the book about the latter part of the book, we talk about fear, you wrote that 2020 survey of Americans found 71% of millennials and 60% 67% of Gen Z, feel climate change has negatively affected their mental health. You go on a generation terrified of climate change is one primed to vote for fossil fuel, outlawing climate solutions that promise to make the fear go away. So my question, so the catastrophism, that’s central to the anti fossil fuel anti hydrocarbon agenda? It has to be the instilling of the fear is central to the agenda.
Alex Epstein 53:26
Oh, yeah. I mean, you think just fear is a very powerful motivator, for good reason. I mean, you know, in a sense, like death, I mean, death is a thing that we want to avoid. I mean, we shouldn’t be like afraid of it, and the big picture of like, okay, everyone is gonna die. That’s just part of life. But I don’t want to die now. Right. That’s a legitimate thing. And so if there’s something that threatens my life, now, I will be afraid of it or the life of a loved one. I don’t have kids yet. But the life children are my children, my future children, children that I know. Like, it’s very legitimate. I mean, it’s very important that we have that in our system, that we can get afraid of things. Unfortunately, the way things are set up often we’re afraid of things that are nowhere near like a bear coming to kill us. But we have like anxiety about things that are not nearly on that scale. But these end of the world things. Yeah, the more you propagate them, the more people want to get away from them at all costs. And so you have this combination of continuing to use fossil fuels is going to make the world unlivable. And then this element of Oh, and all these experts say it, so you can’t deny it. So there’s the authoritarianism. So we’re, like super afraid. And there’s no contesting it. And so what is a kid to do? And I think Greta Thunberg is very understandable reaction, because the other thing they tell us is that oh, well, it’s easy to get rid of this. There are no real benefits to fossil fuels, because all the benefits can be rapidly replaced by solar wind and batteries. So Greta, his reaction is, wait a second, you’re saying that we’re ending the world with this thing? That’s totally unnecessary. And all the authorities tell us this? Well, of course I’m going to be an prudentially That’s why the moral outrage, you know, how dare you? Like, how dare you do this thing that’s totally unnecessary. Versus if if she knew reality, it would be no, the benefits of this thing have made the most amazing life ever, for you, including you’re far safer from climate than people were, you know, even 100 years ago. And there’s nothing that can conceivably happen in the near future with climate, that’s going to be an epic problem for you. There can be disruptive things, but there’s nothing that’s like world ending biblical type. And that’s just total nonsense. If you think about how good we are at mastering, mastering and adapting to nature. But But, and we can’t replace fossil fuels rapidly, like they are irreplaceable for the foreseeable future in terms of providing low cost energy for billions of people. So
Robert Bryce 55:45
let me let me interrupt you there, because that’s the other part of this. And I, I’ve read President Obama’s speech, I think he gave it in, oh, it was last year in Glasgow, and the entirety of the speech reminded me of this very thing that you’re talking about now, which is that somehow the activism is enough, right, that, Oh, just being anti hydrocarbons, anti fossil fuels is enough. And he said, Yeah, you know, continue to be an activist. And to me, that just seems so hollow. Because no, it’s you have to propose something else, you know, to just say you’re opposed to this. Well, okay. Well, what’s your alternative, and they’re in to me is the part that is just the real rub, which is, the alternatives don’t work. And yet, you’re saying, Oh, they’re going to work. And but they’re going to require this massive amount of mining? As you said, it’s a it’s a false, it’s a false hope that that we’re going to turn to something else. And that maybe is the part of it that to me, is the most objectionable is that well, many parts of it are objectionable, but that it’s giving this, oh, we’re gonna hate this thing. But there’s no, that’s that goes back to the religion, that the hope of redemption is a false hope.
Alex Epstein 56:53
Yeah, here, I mean, it’s the issues we’ve talked about with Apple are irrelevant. And the issues with these energy planners that I think they objectively called charlatans are important, because what we have is we have a bunch of people in elite positions, including a lot of respectability, telling us that it’s actually easy to replace fossil fuels. Because if it’s easy to replace, then there aren’t really any benefits from it. Like if you said, Oh, I’m gonna outlaw antibiotics, people will be like, wait a second, antibiotics have some issues with them. But they’re really important, and they stabilize, but the person says, oh, no, I have green antibiotics. And they don’t have any of the problems, but they can fix everything. Well, then, in a relative sense, antibiotics no longer have any benefits, if their benefits are replaceable, by something better than they don’t really have any benefits in terms of the full context. And so that’s there’s all this effort designed to mislead us into thinking that fossil fuels have no real benefits, because their benefits are easily replaceable. And that’s actually why I think we’re in a unique and special time right now, educationally. Because that narrative is really falling apart. Because we have an energy crisis. And it’s pretty clearly caused by the people who said, we can restrict investment in fossil fuels, production of fossil fuels and transportation of fossil fuels. Because solar and wind can rapidly replace like, it’s pretty clear. Europe is more of a quote, leader in this than us. And they’re having a lot of problems because of what they did. It’s particularly exciting. It’s not exciting. There’s an energy crisis. But it’s exciting. There’s the intellectual openness now, where what we’ve been saying, and I’m feel very lucky to have a book coming up during this where people are more open than I think they’ve been since the 1970s, to a significant shift in their energy thinking.
Robert Bryce 58:36
Well, let me follow up on that, because I’ve thought about that as well and spoken about it. But that the after February 24, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia that this is really should, it seems to me it’s really an inflection point. And if it’s not, it should be but at that it is a time where suddenly energy realism is much more appropriate, or much more being embraced much more than I can remember in decades, because countries all over the world are burnt finding, looking for every kind of fossil fuel that they can find because they’re realizing otherwise their economy is going straight into the ditch. So here’s the question. So is has the Russian invasion as in him, you mentioned it, but is this an inflection point? And should it be and what and what is the What’s your hope now and in terms of where how your book fits into the into the into the broader public discussion and public policy realm?
Alex Epstein 59:30
I think the inflection points begin in the summer of 2000 2020, or whether I was decades wrong in 2020, with the California blackouts because we have California that’s being put as Oh, this is the model that we need to follow. And that’s where I live by the way. So you know, we don’t have power. We don’t have power. You know, the wind dies down during a heatwave, we can import from our neighbors that we’ve been depending on that people don’t realize that and we have these significant statewide blackouts and then you know, Texas is another kind of wake up Call
Robert Bryce 1:00:00
it 2021 22. I
Alex Epstein 1:00:03
want you on February 2021. Were
Robert Bryce 1:00:06
20. And then February 2022.
Alex Epstein 1:00:09
November, I thought, I thought you’re going to talk about the year unistorm, Uri the Valentine’s Day store. And so what you have is like in Texas also kind of bragging about when people heard that a lot of wind is amazing. It’s so great. And we’re into this and you know, some of the Republicans are bragging about it certainly is all the Democrats are bragging about it. And then you have this total collapse, that in people’s minds is pretty tied toward the fact that those wind turbine stopped working. Now there were some distortions about that, in terms of the main thing is the freezing isn’t the issue. It’s being cold as an issue. Wind turbines don’t run very well at all when it’s cold, even if they don’t freeze and the media tried their best to paper that over. But people are starting to see Yeah, if they had all had, like all coal and nuclear doesn’t really seem like that would have happened in the same way. And then what we have is Ukraine. And what we have is now Europe’s situation, which has been bad for years has come to the fore, because we’re seeing Oh, they have really expensive energy already. And now it’s really, really expensive. And they are really dependent on Russia. And oh, by the way, didn’t they scrambled to be the all be the first to ban fracking, when we proved this is the greatest technology of our generation. They all decided their reaction was to ban it. And they have been super hostile. And they’ve been viewed as the model like, oh, let’s be like Germany, let’s be like Denmark, now, suddenly, Germany, basically that Russia can kill them on demand at whim, just by cutting off their energy. So it’s, it’s not an automatic victory for our side. But what it gives us is the raw material, we have a wake up call, and people are open to the there’s something wrong with the establishment. Yeah, this on 911. To not this is not as extreme as that, but you have something wrong with like, there’s something wrong with our foreign policy, that we just got attacked in New York City, by these people that we’re not thinking about at all. Like that’s not to say what it is. But, you know, the people who with 911 apparel is the people who are most who are viewed as most anticipating it, were the people who got the most credibility, same thing is true, the financial crisis 2007 2008, you know, a lot of people rose to prominence, who were, who were the ones sounding the alarm. And so I think those of us the pro energy people, often, I often call us energy humanists who have been talking about how important energy is and how solar and wind can’t rapidly replace fossil fuels. We have a track record of being right. And so part of what we need to do and I wrote a piece on my substack, about this yesterday is, we need to say that we were right, like we do not don’t need to be shrinking violets, we need to say that we were right, we need to make clear that the other side that was wrong, and that many of the people who are being consulted now are the people who caused the problem. Like that is very, very important. Without going into names. I was talking to a very prominent person yesterday at a group. And I considered him to be responsible for the energy crisis. And I said that very directly, because I thought it’s crazy that this guy is allowed to speak. And nobody’s acting like, it’s not his people acting like it’s not his fault at all. He’s acting like it’s 2019. Whereas No, it’s 2022. And you guys have really screwed up the world. So with fossil future, I think of it as Yeah, I fortunately have a track record as somebody who has been very right about this. And now people are really open to the idea of a fossil future, because everyone in the world, including Joe Biden, is desperate for fossil fuels, people see there’s something wrong with the establishment. So it’s time to give them really good resources. And so it’s lucky that just the book is super current, because it just came out. And it’s, you know, it’s really hot, it’s sold a lot of copies already, even two weeks before. So it’s very exciting to have this resource to deliver in this situation.
Robert Bryce 1:03:45
It does feel like whether it’s nuclear the attitudes toward nuclear attitude toward hydrocarbons, fossil fuels that that it’s a big dose of energy realism. And as I’ve said, Energy Energy realism equals energy humanism, and we need more of both. So just a couple of last things. My guest again is Alex Epstein. He has his new book, which I have here and have marked up and have bookmarked in a whole bunch fossil future.
Alex Epstein 1:04:12
Why he doesn’t know the final one doesn’t look like that just so people know, he got Robert got a very special Virtus is
Robert Bryce 1:04:17
the is the galley version, why global human flourishing requires more oil, coal and natural gas, not less. So just a couple more things. So what is arguing to 100? And I mean, this is the really the end of your book, Dakota, where you talk about the way forward and that what you’re advocating is for more people talking about the importance of of affordable, reliable energy, what is arguing to 100?
Alex Epstein 1:04:44
So arguing to 100 is unfortunately what the other side in this debate usually does much better than we do. But it’s arguing for a certain policy as achieving a moral goal. So like the example I give, and it’s a controversial example, Well, in terms of the content, but I think it’s it’s an are inarguably effective as what Trump did in 2016. So you can think of it as there’s a scale from negative 100 to 100. You know, and 100 is like the ideal that we’re pursuing a negative 100. Is, is the evil, right? And what and the way that conversate the general conversation was framed was it was all about like, reducing inequality is the goal. And, and more inequality is bad. That’s really how the Democrats in 2016 were framing it. And imagine if Trump had just come in there and accepted that framing, you wouldn’t really have had anything to say because he wasn’t going to create more income equality, right, that was not what he was going to do. So what he did is he reframed it as he focused it on American greatness. So for him 100 was American greatness. And the negative 100 was an American decline. And he had that very effective expression, which I think came from Reagan, but he popularized it, make America great again. And he tied all of his policies toward American greatness. So he said, Here’s, and again, I’m not agreeing with it, or disagree with the content. It’s just to make the point of how it works. So like his immigration policies, arguing to 100, this is going to make America great. His economic policy, his health care policies, foreign policy, you know, America first, they’re all going to make America great. And then he argues the other side to negative 100, you know, your immigration policy is going to bring us this way, your foreign policy is going to bring us this way. So he reframed. The key thing is he reframed the, the moral debate. So he changed what the good was, and he changed what the bad was. And then he argued his policies will pursue the good. So today an energy that 100 is eliminating co2 emissions or net zero or carbon neutral. That’s the number one goal. Everyone has an energy companies have it. Governments have it, I think this is an arguable I think it’s arguably the number one more goal in the world right now that everyone is saying and uniting on. And then the negative one
Robert Bryce 1:06:49
rhetoric around these just to be clear. So you’re saying the anti the anti energy crowd saying net zero is the goal and the ideal, can I get tons of emails around net zero and why it’s, so that’s,
Alex Epstein 1:07:00
that’s become the ideal that negative one. So 100 is net zero, negative 100 is using more fossil fuels, right. And so what happens is, usually what happens is you have these extremes, and then in the middle is zero. What the pro fossil fuel side does, like the companies is, when when somebody says, Hey, I have a green New Deal, it’s going to take us toward 100. What they say is, oh, it’s not practical, like, oh, it’s going to destroy jobs or won’t work. And so they want to argue to zero, they just try to shoot down the other person’s positive policy to get us toward the goal, but they don’t challenge the goal of net zero. And my view is we should not accept the goal of net zero, because why should our goal be to eliminate co2 emissions at all costs, you should not do that at all costs, you can say it might be, you might want to reduce them as a means to some end in some contexts. But so for me, the 100 is advancing human flourishing on Earth. That’s the 100. And then a key part of 100 is expanding human empowerment. And that’s what I focus on most in my work. And I know you focus on it to, which is getting more energy to more people. And so we’re saying like, yeah, we want to advance human flourishing on Earth. A key part of that is empowering the world. And that’s what we’re focused on. And that’s the context in which we look at something like co2 emissions. And with that framing, it’s totally compatible to be pro fossil fuels. This is really what I’ve done in my work. I’ve reframed it from eliminating human impact, which is the broader goal that eliminating co2 emissions and Net Zero under I’ve rejected that. I’ve said, No, we don’t want to eliminate our impact at all costs. We want to advance human flourishing. And that’s, that’s why I can be confident and effective and positive. Because I’m not just saying your you guys are the idealists. I’m just practicals No, I’m the idealist. And you guys are actually immoral in your goals, because actually immoral to eliminate co2 emissions at all costs. Because you’re really sacrificing human wellbeing to this ideal of an unimpacted planet.
Robert Bryce 1:08:54
This is something that occurs to me, because I think what you if I was to assess your work and moral case, and then in this one, you’ve successfully changed that dynamic, the debate around saying, no human flourishing, that should be the goal, right? If we start from there, then if I were going to summarize your work in one sentence, what is Alex done that’s done and done it really well. He’s advanced this idea of human flourishing as the ideal that that is where we need to start the discussion. But you have tremendous confidence. Do you ever I have it and I’ll admit myself, right, but ever concerned in this is nothing that I’ve written down. But just as you’re saying that you think that you’re wrong, that you’re somehow that maybe you’re you’ve gotten this because I’m you know, I have my own self doubt. But you seem like your conviction has only grown over the years. How’s that? How have you changed? How have you changed over the last eight or 10 years as you’ve done this?
Alex Epstein 1:09:48
Well, I talked about this in the in the intro of fossil futures I have a section called to the readers of the moral case for fossil fuels, which is only designed to be read by people who read the previous book because it is very weird. It’s unusual, I should say to write a replacement book. Yeah. And it’s like, why there’s this question of why?
Why should I read this book, but I do talk about my own experience, which was, I got off the show, I was never off the issue, but I wasn’t focused on it for a bit. And so one thing is I actually became more sympathetic to the economics of solar and wind, and more, more sympathetic to climate catastrophe than I was when I wrote moral case, when I was kind of out of it a little bit, because there was just so much stuff about oh, my god, like this project worked. So well, this project work, and this climate disaster, and I wasn’t really looking at it carefully. It’s like, whoa, maybe. And I’m always open to make, I mean, I have no, I have no prescription for the world about I can’t dictate to the world about how climate is going to work, or how the energy economy is going to develop. So I have to always be open to changes in those variables. And I am, but I started to think and I became less enthusiastic about fossil fuels. And then I decided, like to tick to get into it again. And then I became, like more extreme in the other way. Because I really what I really understood, which is one of the things that’s different about this book, is I really understood the the false anti human framework, which I call the anti impact framework of the anti fossil fuel side. And I saw how that just shaped everything. So one big example for me was, I really was too quick to assume that co2 impacts were all bad. And I was talking with a philosopher who helped me a lot. And he pointed this out is like you have some of this premise that you just, you’re too quickly assuming that it’s bad, or that that you’re too much diminishing the benefits of warming and cold places around the world near like, a little bit too much diminishing, gleaning, because you have this idea that there’s something wrong with us impacting it. And I really noticed I was because I looked into it more like, yeah, there are significant benefits to warming. And we really need to take that into account. And the reason we’re not is because we have this belief that impact is evil, and inevitably self destructive. And when I really started having my own framework and applying it carefully, I really started to see that the climate stuff was even more masterful than I thought, and that the that there also a lot of positives and co2. And then with energy, really even seeing more than I used to believe which might seem impossible to people, even more how valuable energy. So I think I have way more in this book, about just how valuable energy is how crucial it is, to an abundant world, to a safe world, to an opportunity filled world, to progress and innovation. It’s just like, it’s so much clearer in my mind now and so much clearer in my writing. But I think it is important by was, in fact going in the opposite direction before I went into it. And so for me, I always I always try to be open to changes in the factual situation. And I have I have a full time researcher who’s very good at, you know, he’s, he’s, we agree on stuff and fundamentals, but he’s very good at catching my errors. And he’s caught so many errors have less debt, Stephen, when I mentioned him, sometimes he, he catches my errors. And then I had a philosopher, I was working with Ankara, Dante who sort of helped me clarify my thinking and caught a lot of errors. And then when people make specific points that I don’t have a full answer to, like it sticks with me, I really, like I really pursue it if they make a good point. I think that’s why confidence because I know how, like, I have so much confidence in how much work I put into being right and how open I was to being corrected. So then my current thinking, I’m confident at least that I did the right things. And in terms of the fundamentals of framework, it’s to me, it’s totally clear that most people, their framework makes no sense, like the idea of just looking at side effects. To just give one example that I have in chapter one that I think is definitive, that shows there’s a huge problem with our designated experts. I don’t know if you remember the Michael Mann example. Now, this guy is considered the ultimate designated expert on a climate and we’re supposed to listen to what he says about energy. And he talks about agriculture. And He only talks about here’s how co2 might make agriculture worse. And he doesn’t talk about the fact that 8 billion people’s lives depend on the benefits of fossil fuels for Mechon, you know, for mechanization, like the machines that can refund Thresh 1000 times more wheat than their manual labor and the fertilizer that we are totally deriving from natural gas. He doesn’t mention that. Can you imagine this? In his whole book, this expert doesn’t mention the benefits of fossil fuels to food, which I call it the food of food. And He only talks about side effects. So that to me shows how bankrupt the establishment is that a top leader makes the most basic thinking or it is just as bad or worse, as if he was evaluating the state of polio. And he, he just he focused on the polio vaccine. And he wrote a whole book and it just said, Oh, here are the side effects of the polio vaccine. And he didn’t mention that it stopped polio. Right. Like fossil fuel stopped hunger.
Robert Bryce 1:14:55
Yeah, and I think that that’s one of the things that’s really coming to the fore now in the wake of this and the The prices of fertilizer going up unavailability of fertilizer around the world and the looming prospect of famine. I mean, this is we’ve been talking about this for years, right? And if this won’t be a clarifying moment, and there’s there may be there’s no hope. So last few questions. I always ask the guests this as well. So I know you’ve been busy reading proofreading your book, what? What are you reading? What other books or do you have any other books on your? on your on your desk on your nightstand? If so, what are they?
Alex Epstein 1:15:27
Yeah, I’m finally not just reading my own book over and over for errors, which
Robert Bryce 1:15:30
is, which is tiresome? Yes, I’m well aware.
Alex Epstein 1:15:34
Yeah. So I am, I’m reading a really good book called The War on the west, from Douglas Murray, who’s a really interesting guy, maybe I can have him on my podcast at some point. I don’t know if it’s big enough for him. But something I think he does really, really well, is he’s very good at identifying false motives, for movements, which I think I’m pretty good at as well with the environmental movement. So for example, he’ll talk about, like, the so called anti racist movement. But he’ll point out that wait a second, why do they only seem to care about racism in America, where racism is a very small force, compared to what it is, say, in many places in Asia, or in most of the world, like racism is rampant in the world, America is demonstrably much less racist than almost any place in the world. And yet, everyone is obsessed, these sort of globally focused people use racism to condemn Western culture, Western civilization, even though it’s more rampant and other places. And yes, tons of examples where it just shows that thing people claim to care about that justifies their hatred of Western civilization is obviously not the thing they care about, because they don’t care about it being far worse, in the other civilizations, and I think I found a kind of a kindred spirit with the environmental stuff, because it’s like, they claim to care about, you know, you could even make the point with the environmental stuff. It’s Oh, they claim to love nature, but they don’t seem to care that it’s killing a bunch of birds, or they they claim to mine would be that wind is the wind turbines, I’m sure. But mine would be they claim to care about energy, and yet, and they claim to just want a replacement for fossil fuels. And yet, they oppose nuclear, they oppose hydro, they oppose all the conditions necessary for making solar wind, and battery. So it’s really not about it’s not really they want a cleaner source of energy. There’s really a hostility toward energy. But he does that really well with a lot of the attacks on Western culture. So I found that very impressive. It’s, it’s an example of, sometimes you’re told about someone’s ideas, like I had read a little bit of him or her a little bit, but sometimes you’re told, oh, you should read this person, you think, Oh, I know what that, like, I have an idea of what they’re saying. But if there’s a good person, you should always just read the person because it’s there. They’re never, they’re always better than there’s summaries by other people. So that’s, I’m enjoying that book a lot.
Robert Bryce 1:17:55
Good. So last question, then, what gives you hope? What makes you optimistic now?
Alex Epstein 1:18:02
Oh, well, the number one thing that makes me optimistic is like how successful I think the energy is energy humanists are being so there’s this element of we have a crisis where people’s minds are open. But we also have a pretty good formula for for persuading people. And certainly, I think, you know, I’ve honed my own thing. And everything that I know is in fossil future in terms of how do you persuade somebody who expects to disagree with you about the truth, and in this case, so much of it, for me is framing. And in particular, in terms of framing? Like, let’s look carefully at the benefits and side effects in relationship to human flourishing around the world and really just getting people this, like, Hey, do you agree, we need to look not just at the negative side effects of fossil fuels, but also the benefits? And almost everyone will say yes, and I tried to do that in my work, just get people to think about the full context. And it really stops a lot of the catastrophizing, because they don’t assume that climate negatives are infinite, they kind of see them as something to weigh. And then they’re opened to this whole world of fossil fuels benefits, including climate mastery. And including something I think you’re the most successful person at popularizing, which is energy density, which is a key aspect of why fossil fuels are uniquely valuable in today’s you know, along with nuclear. And so I think that what we have is we’ve got this educational moment. And then we’ve got a bunch of us inside point like you, me Shellenberger LOMBORG. You know, Mark Mills, Steve Koonin, like, where we really are able to reach people and where the other side really has no response. I mean, you’re seeing was one thing that was interesting about that Destler debate was he didn’t really challenge me at all on climate catastrophe. He just tried to challenge me on the economics of fossil fuels. Right. It’s just so interesting that like their argument, the climate experts argument is now Oh, solar and wind are amazing. And they can easily replace fossil fuels for everyone who has them and who doesn’t
Robert Bryce 1:19:54
and claiming they’re cheaper over but yeah, they’re gonna be cheaper and even now, that’s been clearly proven, not the case. Right, exactly,
Alex Epstein 1:20:00
but it just shows that they once. So what a lot of what we’ve done is we’ve put climate stuff, any negatives of climate, we’ve put it. And I think I’ve done this the most exclusively, we’ve put it in the position of a side effect, that you have to look at the benefits that come along with it. Whereas it was previously framed as either your climate change believer or climate change denier. And if you believe in climate change, and they hate fossil fuels, and if you deny climate change, and fossil fuels are okay, and I think we’ve exploded that. And so once you look at the benefits of fossil fuels, and once you look at the side effects of any kind of precision, the catastrophe, the fossil fuel elimination side has no plausibility at all, if you understand how beneficial energy is how uniquely cost effective fossil fuels are. And as we always stress how much of the world needs far more energy, so I’m optimistic that our formula broadly speaking, and then my formula, in particular, are working well. And then I have, you know, I’m very happy that I have like my best exemplar of that formula right now, that’s already getting a lot of really good initial reviews, and that has already sold way more copies than it needs to be on the New York Times bestseller list. Not that it’ll get there. Because who knows what goes into that list. But it’s, it’s really exciting to see, to see it all working. And it’s like, it’s a moment for all of us, it’s, we really need to take advantage of it, including, we need to be mean, and criticize the people who got us here, we can’t keep treating these designated experts, as real experts. They are not real experts. They are they are destroyers, they are anti energy, non experts. And that needs to be made clear. And we need to we need to take, we need to be the designated energy personnel. Let’s just Let’s just put, let’s just not evade that. Right, all the energy humanists who have been right, we need to be the designated experts. And we need to demand that.
Robert Bryce 1:21:50
Well, fair enough. I think that’s a good, that’s a good place to stop. And I know you’ve we can talk more and you put it’s an impressive book, Alex, you know, congratulations. Congratulations on getting it finished. It it’s, I would say exhaustive. You lost. But congratulations on it. Thanks for coming on the power hungry podcast again. Go ahead. You had something else? Oh, I was
Alex Epstein 1:22:14
gonna say well, yeah, exhaustive, hopefully more exhaustive than exhausting. I’ll take a while to read I think I think it’s worth it for people. And just if people want to get it, obviously get an Amazon. But if you go to the website, fossil future book.com. You can get bulk discounts if you want them. And also, if you see this before May 24. Or let’s say even on May 24. There are a lot of preorder bonuses, including I did a 90 minute conversation with Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal, I did discussion with Palmer Luckey, the inventor of Oculus, there’s a free six month subscription to my substack which is worth I think $50 I’m doing a how to talk about climate change event. And and I’ll give you the Alex notes that’s like my 10 page summary of the book. So I’m just sort of breaking the bank in terms of pre order stuff so that we get as many of these as possible. And you know, you guys fall in love with it and you spread the word and then we can impact a lot of people you’ve got
Robert Bryce 1:23:10
the merch is what you’re saying here.
Alex Epstein 1:23:12
I’ve got I’ve got all the merch.
Robert Bryce 1:23:16
Good. All right. Well, Alex, thanks for coming on the power hungry podcast. It’s been great fun to catch up and congratulations on the book. And thanks to all of you and power, power hungry land out there, the power hungry podcast land. Thanks for tuning into this one. And I will see you next time. Bye.