In my opinion piece The Pillars of Modern Life I wrote about how we are currently at the apex of human civilization on Planet Earth. I talked about how the amazing quality of life that even the poorest among us enjoy is made possible by three things: limited government, free-market capitalism, and fossil fuels. At the end of that piece, I described how modern day self-styled “progressives” are trying to tear it all down. In this article, we’ll explore this theme a little bit further. If you haven’t read The Pillars of Modern Life, please do. It will help set the stage for what you’re about to read.
To recap, for most of human history on this planet, human life was harsh, brutish and short. Most people lived in abject poverty, only one bad harvest or cold summer away from disaster. Personal freedom did not exist for the people who were subjects of some lord, king, warlord or other tyrant. Slavery and forced labor were common and women were consigned to second class status. None of the modern conveniences we take for granted existed. If you wanted to go somewhere you walked, or if you were lucky, took a horse or carriage. Instead of sitting in air-conditioned comfort for a few hours, to go across country or the world you had to travel for weeks or months in grueling conditions. In other words, we modern folk cannot even imagine life as our ancestors lived it, nor would we long survive if we had to.
In some ways, our civilization is a victim of its own success. If we were struggling just to keep ourselves fed, we wouldn’t have the time or energy to quibble about all the stupid things we fight about these days, like biology, climate, marriage, the role of government and everything else. Throughout most of history, infant mortality was high, making babies treasures who were nurtured in the hope they would live past the first year instead of being an inconvenience to be killed in the womb (or even worse, born alive after a botched abortion). Capitalism is so successful that its detractors can’t see it for what it is and want to replace it with socialism, a system that is known to fail every time it’s been tried in the real world.
It’s plain that progressives believe government should be involved in all aspects of human life and can solve every human problem. Limited government, like capitalism, is anathema to them. But there is one other area of life that progressives are actively campaigning against: Energy, and the mobility it gives us.
Whether one likes it or not, so-called fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids – power and promote the advanced modern civilization we now enjoy. Electricity, which gives us everything from air conditioning to high definition TVs to the smartphones progressives use to attack fossil fuels, is mostly generated by coal. Thanks to clean coal technologies and carbon capture, power generation from coal is cleaner than ever. Oil powers our transportation. From our private cars to airliners to giant cargo ships, oil is what makes them go. (Of course there are exceptions, but I’m speaking in generalities here.) Natural gas is used for electricity generation and is what keeps most of our homes warm in the winter.
The shale revolution, enabled by advanced technologies including hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has unlocked vast reservoirs of abundant energy and made the United States a net energy exporter no longer dependent on the troubled Middle East for our energy needs. To dive further into this topic, I recommend the excellent book Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy, by Stephen Moore and Kathleen Hartnett White.
Indeed, as with capitalism, the energy industry is a victim of its own success. Thanks to fracking and ever-improving completion technologies, operators have unlocked vast reserves of oil and natural gas, moving the supply curve to the right and driving costs down. While low oil and natural gas prices are not great for energy companies, they’re great for most Americans, especially lower income people.
Quite simply put: fossil fuels are the prime movers behind our modern society. EVERY convenience we enjoy – electricity on demand, hot and cold running water, flushing toilets, air conditioning in summer and heat in winter, transportation (even your bicycle has components derived from fossil fuels and is manufactured using fossil fuels), modern medicine, the synthetic clothing you wear, literally almost everything – is derived from and made possible by fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are in most cases the cheapest energy source available. They also provide the most reliable and efficient energy. While there is certainly a place for so-called “renewable” (wind and solar), nuclear, hydro and geothermal energy, the overwhelming majority of our energy production comes from fossil fuels.
The Circle of Life
Without the star we revolve around, life on Earth would not exist. All of our energy originates with the Sun. Millions of years ago, the sun warmed the Earth, giving life to primordial plants and animals. As these organisms died, their remains were absorbed by the planet on land and under the sea where over the course of millennia they were cooked into the organic forms we now know as fossil fuels.
Humanity has, to some limited extent where there were easily available oil pools, coal seams and natural gas vents, used fossil fuels throughout history. It has only been within the last 200 years that we have systematically used fossil fuels with ever increasing efficiency and scalability to sustain and power our advanced civilization.
As currently living organisms die and are absorbed into Earth, we too could become the fossil fuels of a far distant future, continuing the circle of life that will exist for as long as the sun shines.
Life on Earth is carbon based, and life cannot flourish without carbon dioxide. When progressives talk about “decarbonizing”, they are literally negating our very existence.
The Left Wants To Tear It All Down
For reasons that are quite unclear to me, the global Left is gripped by the mass delusion that Earth’s ever-changing climate is changing because of the miniscule amount of greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide) that our modern society produces. Ignoring natural phenomena including the giant gas ball in the sky that warms the Earth, they think that the energy we consume is polluting our air, destroying our oceans and our planet.
As with zealots of every religion, climate change believers are impervious to reason, ignore and suppress conflicting data and dissenting viewpoints, and have their own pantheon of saints and icons. If you don’t believe this, look no further than the fact that a 16 year old child from Sweden, who is not a climate scientist (much less a high school graduate) and apparently knows nothing about the scientific method, is like a high priestess of this faith system. She makes speeches on the global stage and some people hang on her every word as if she is a high moral authority and the arbiter of their “climate truth”.
Because of this unrealistic belief system, they insist that our society “decarbonize”. They want all production and use of fossil fuels to stop. They believe, naively and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that so-called “renewable” energy sources can completely replace fossil fuels. They want us out of our cars – using bicycles, public transportation, and yes, our feet, to get around. The insane “Green New Deal” put forth by former bartender Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for the elimination of air travel. They literally want humanity to regress to pre-industrial times and modes of living.
The War on Mobility
This brings us to the war on mobility. One of the hallmarks of a free people is that we have the means to quickly, easily and inexpensively transport ourselves over long distances at our sole discretion. We have the freedom to use the modes of transportation that work FOR US. We can literally move our homes from one place to another quite easily.
But this freedom is a real problem for the Left. That’s why they are making it almost impossible to drive in cities like Denver. In an op-ed piece recently published in the Denver Post, author Tim Jackson talks about the “War on Cars”:
“Bicycle Colorado’s recent annual conference featured the “War on Cars” podcast. In case its perspective wasn’t clear, the podcast will send you a #BanCars sticker for a $5 per month donation.
The War on Cars is not being waged just by the bicycle crowd. Event sponsors included the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) and the City of Denver (your tax dollars used against the mobility choice most Denver residents prefer).
If you’ve been in central Denver recently, you’ve seen their strategy in action: Lanes for parking and driving are being turned over to bicycles and buses.
Unfortunately, in Denver that transition is largely a zero-sum game. Although the city is growing, it is not expanding road capacity to keep pace — it is largely redistributing it. Capacity that was used for parking and driving will be now reserved for buses and bicycles (which are getting 125 miles of new lanes).”
I work in downtown Denver, and I can attest that driving in downtown can be and frequently is a nightmare. It can take 20 minutes to travel the distance of two city blocks. It’s infuriating to see entire traffic lanes reserved for buses, and if there’s construction, as there frequently is, the two remaining lanes can be cut down to one. It’s truly a recipe for congestion (and, ironically, higher carbon dioxide emissions from cars stuck in heavy traffic).
However, according to the Left, if you MUST use a car, make it an electric car – or a “zero emission vehicle” (ZEV). But there’s a few problems with that: ZEVs still use electricity (mostly generated by coal), the batteries use lithium-ion batteries which carry environmental costs of their own (in many cases miners drill to find lithium deposits, kind of like how we drill to harvest oil and natural gas), they are difficult to recycle, they may not be able to carry enough charge between charging stations and some studies say they can increase air pollution. They pose a fire safety risk as well.
In addition, they are expensive. An entry-level Tesla model 3 starts at $33,690 and can go up to $50,690 for the “performance” model. By contrast, an entry level gas powered Nissan Versa sedan starts at $12,815. Talking in terms of a monthly payment for a three year auto loan, the Tesla Model 3 would cost $1,020 per month (assuming a loan amount of $35,000 and an interest rate of 3.11%) compared to a monthly payment of $393 for the Nissan (assuming a loan amount of $13,500 and a 3.11% interest rate). Add in the cost of insurance and, in Colorado, vehicle registration fees and that electric car is out of reach for most middle and lower class people.
Leftist elites want you to ride public transportation, with its inherent hassle, unreliability and discomfort, while they drive their cars to the Capitol, ride private jets to their climate conferences (or to campaign for president), and live in multiple large homes with giant carbon footprints.
Don’t Let Them Take It Away
If you value your modern life, with all of its wonder and convenience, then you have to fight for it. What does this mean? It means standing up to the climate crowd. It means educating yourself on the subject. It means financially supporting, knocking doors for and electing candidates who will support the modern life we enjoy, which generally means supporting Republicans over Democrats.
Stand up to the climate and energy hypocrites, who demonize fossil fuels and preach green while enjoying all the conveniences of modern life just like the rest of us do.
When people talk about mandating renewable energy and similar government force, remember that it will cost YOU more money. As an example, Germany has a higher percentage of “renewable” energy sources, and German citizens pay much higher energy costs. Stand up and resist these government takings.
Above all, remember that while “renewable”, nuclear, hydro and geothermal energy sources all have their place (and all should compete for ratepayer dollars in the absence of mandates, subsidies and other government interference), it is fossil fuels that power and sustain our modern lives. We ignore or forget this at our peril.
By Richard D. Turnquist
February 26, 2020
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein
Re: “All of our energy originates with the Sun”
Where is the “science” or analysis that proves climate change is not significantly affected by the earth’s core considering 1) it is estimated (because no one knows for sure) to be 10000 degrees F (the same temperature as the sun’s surface) 2) it is “on” continuously (24/7) transferring heat spherically to the earth’s surface unaffected by the earth’s orbit, diurnal changes, atmosphere or cloud cover 3) the bottom of the majority of the oceans (which cover 71% of the earth) are closest to the earth’s core heat source, are the main source of atmospheric temperature changes and water vapor, have several underwater volcanoes to include those in 40000 miles of tectonic plate fissures, ~100,000 underwater mud volcanoes as well as “black smoker” and sea mount volcanoes, and it has never been viewed let alone explored or extensively analyzed for heat transfer 4) the only directly observable view we have of the earth’s core is from the deepest hole drilled which is about 0.2% the distance to the earth’s center and 5) seismic measurements (the main window we have to the earth’s interior) are unable to penetrate the earth’s core, are affected by the temperature and density of subterranean materials and are therefore subject to diverse interpretations?
Note the deepest hole drilled into the earth’s crust is the Kola borehole (7.6 miles). Let’s assume this borehole accurately defines the entire surface of earth’s properties down to 7.6 miles and by inference also tells us everything we need to know about the rest of the earth’s properties that lie below it. On an analogous, 2 dimensional scale that would be the equivalent of totally exploring a landmass the size of India and claiming we now know everything there is to know about the rest of the earth’s surface. Note that if the India sized landmass we totally explored was somewhere inside Russia, we would not know the earth had any oceans.
The bottom line is whatever is going on in the earth’s core may or may not be the cause of any perceived climate change – but considering the lack of observability into how the core operates, in my mind there is reasonable doubt with the hypothesis that “the change” is due solely to a trace gas (CO2) that is 0.04% of the earth’s atmosphere and is partially consumed in the photosynthesis Calvin cycle process to sustain plant life
Re: “EVERY convenience we enjoy”
You made a good start, but it goes way beyond that. “Green” proposals to ban fossil fuels overlook the fact that almost all precursor organic chemicals used in medicines, plastics, fertilizer, building and electric wire insulation, wind turbine blades, battery electrolytes and housings, utility pipelines (water, sewer, communications, electrical and natural gas) asphalt for roads and shingles, etc (the list is extremely long) comes from natural gas and oil which typically come out of the ground together from a well. In addition natural gas is used as a heat source in the manufacture of cement (for concrete), smelting for copper and glass and fiberglass and is the only viable source of some industrial gases – especially helium which is critical to some manufacturing processes, cryogenic cooling for MRI machines, nuclear weapons security and fuel tank pressurization for rockets. Note also, there is no retail market for coal. Its primary use is steel manufacturing and bulk delivery for reliable (outage proof) electric power generation while natural gas does have a retail market in that it is used to heat and cook food in about half the homes in the US as well as heat and cool some commercial buildings. Without fossil fuels, retrofitting these homes and buildings to use “green” electricity would be very expensive and in some cases next to impossible. Also, in the long run it would be smarter to focus on “clean” coal or nuclear for electricity because the consumer is going to be directly affected by the future price and availability of natural gas and wind and solar cannot store enough energy to maintain the base load or accommodate large, industrial electricity users like aluminum manufacturers.