[This is part 3 in a series of excerpts of the book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein]
So long as we accept nonimpact as an environmental ideal, we will not fight passionately against those who oppose the energy of life, because we won’t consider its essence—the transformation of nature in service of human life—as a moral ideal.
But transformation is a moral ideal. I call that ideal industrial progress—the progressive improvement of our environment using human industry, including energy and technology, in service of human life. It’s why I named my think tank the Center for Industrial Progress. I wanted to start a positive alternative to the mainstream Green environmentalist movement, to replace the deadly ideal of nonimpact with the true ideal of industrial progress. We don’t want to “save the planet” from human beings; we want to improve the planet for human beings.
We need to say this loudly and proudly. We need to say that human life is our one and only standard of value. And we need to say that the transformation of our environment, the essence of our survival, is a supreme virtue. We need to recognize that to the extent we deny either, we are willing to harm real, flesh-and-blood human beings for some antihuman dogma.
Making a moral case always means naming your standard—for us, human life. It means tying everything, including every positive and negative of fossil fuel use, to human life. If you do that in your thinking, I believe you will come to conclusions similar to mine. If you do that in communicating with others, you will be amazingly effective, because you will be clear and sincere.
If we can do this, we can create the dream—an energy revolution that spawns revolutions in every other field. And we can perform a great act of justice for the millions of men and women in the fossil fuel industry who have been working every day to keep our machines alive, who have been given little appreciation by our culture but much condemnation, and who in my experience do not themselves understand the full importance of their work. I hope this book helps them see it.
The fossil fuel industry is a moral industry at its core. Members do immoral things, to be sure, but transforming ancient dead plants into the energy of life in a way that maximizes benefits and minimizes risks is an activity that the industry should be proud of, and we should be proud to use its product.
Unfortunately, the fossil fuel industry has, in recent decades, not believed that or at least has refused to say it. It has conceded to its environmentalist opponents that fossil fuels are an “addiction,” just a temporarily necessary one.