The Case For Fossil Fuels

In my most recent High School debate, I made the case for fossil fuels, arguing against the position that alternative energy can effectively replace fossil fuels. While it is not a stance that I back in full, this was my constructive: 

The push for complete alternative energy has gained momentum in recent decades due to global warming hysterics. But, this is hardly a new phenomena. Public intellectuals identify a crisis and then crusade for humanity by providing their solution which we so greatly need. 

There is no question that the globe is warming but it has warmed and cooled before, and is not as warm today as it was some centuries ago, before there were any automobiles and before there was as much burning of fossil fuels as today.

Very few, if any, of the dire things which global warming believers have predicted to happen have occurred. Just 3 of the 117 climate models from the 90s were actually accurate. According to climate scientists, human activities have very little effect on the climate, compared to other factors, from volcanoes to clouds. Historically speaking, it has been the case that rises in carbon dioxide levels and other greenhouse gases have followed, not preceded, rises in global temperature. This presents a very problematic occurrence for those who constantly claim that increases in greenhouse gases precede rises in global temperature, not follow them. Saying A causes B is hard to do when historical evidence states B occurs before A. 

Given this, it would follow that restricting markets around the globe and stifling human development would not be a rather wise decision. I bet none of us would bet a paycheck on the forecast of the weather. Why should we then place human development and economic well-being on the line for predictions which hold even less validity? 

Not only does the push for alternative energy descend from a rather faulty point, it fails to acknowledge reality:  fossil fuels have been incredibly beneficial within the last 100 years and alternative energy as it stands cannot fulfill the needs for which fossil fuels meet.

Some of the greatest trends in the last 100 years were real per capita GDP rising from $4,800 to $31,500, real hourly wages rising from $3.45 to $12.50, life expectancy increasing by three decades, air quality improving by nearly 30 percent dating back to 1977 in major cities, major life-threatening disease cases declining to less than 50 per 100,000 people and infant mortality rates falling 10-fold. How would these occurrences have taken place in the absence of fossil fuels allowing for more efficient transportation of commodities and human capital? In 2008 fertilizer made from synthetic nitrogen was responsible for feeding 48 percent of the world’s population. Had fossil fuels not been used for agricultural production, the world would have needed to increase the global amount of cropland by an additional 150 percent. Are we going to allow humanity to starve at an even greater rate because of environmental morals?

Those arguing in favor of alternative energy rarely provide an answer as to when these sources of energy will be able to fulfill the world’s energy demands, and with several countries developing economically their energy needs are expanding. The simple fact is that right now there is no alternative to petroleum. More than 90 percent of the energy used in transportation comes from oil. To meet just 8% of the U.K.’s energy needs, 44,000 offshore wind turbines would have to be constructed, taking up 13,000 square miles. One megawatt of wind generation requires 542.3 tons of steel, natural gas requires 5.2 tons. 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity, renewable energy is not going to make this tragedy any less unfortunate. 

Yet, these advocates are quick to jump to how unsafe fossil fuels are. But nothing is completely safe. The only important question is how its safety compares to that of alternative energy options. And evidence gives us reason to believe alternative energy is less safe.

 Jesse Ausubel, Director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University states,“A fundamental credo of being green is that you cause minimal interference with the landscape… Renewables may be renewable, but they are not green.”

A 2007 study in Science Magazine by scientists with the Nature Conservancy and the University of Minnesota reported that clearing rainforests, savannas, and grasslands to produce biofuels in Brazil, Asia, and the U.S. could release up to 420 times more carbon dioxide than fossil fuels. Further, there are a mass spread of scientists who fear that solar arrays, wind farms, and geothermal plants could disrupt or destroy wildlife habitat and soak up precious water supplies in the arid West.”

Truth be told, climate related deaths have declined by 99% since fossil fuels were introduced on an industrial scale.

The so-called climate crisis and push for fossil fuel replacement flops because it fails to do what it necessary, insofar that in order for an alternative energy source to be a viable replacement for fossil fuels, it must be incredibly producible and economically competitive. And time after time, we just don’t see this happening.


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