Ayn Rand

Alex Epstein: Why the Future Needs More Fossil Fuels

The energy policy analyst says cheap and abundant gas, oil, and coal will continue to play a central role in human flourishing.


My guest today is Alex Epstein, the author of Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas—Not Less.

Two basic beliefs frequently circulate today: First, that fossil fuels are causing imminent global catastrophe and, second, that renewable energy sources (especially solar and wind) can supply all our energy needs either right now or in the very near future.

Epstein says that both of those points are wrong. He believes that fossil fuels have contributed to a warming global climate system but argues that they give us more and more mastery over the environment and their renewable replacements can't scale up to fulfill our needs. Humans, he says, are flourishing like never before precisely because oil, gas, and coal allow us to withstand a world that is very inhospitable to our living here. Wind and solar make up just 3 percent of all energy right now and forcing a fast-paced shift to renewables, he argues, would consign billions of people to poverty or death in order to stave off the impact of man-made climate change, the consequences of which have often been exaggerated and with which humans are equipped to deal. 

In this wide-ranging conversation, Epstein discusses how he came to his views, how he fought an attempted hit piece in The Washington Post by using social media, why Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) corporate rules are troubling, and how Ayn Rand influences his thinking.