The Psychology of Fossil Fuel Free
by Kathleen Sgamma, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs on September 22, 2015 - 12:48pm
What is it about people that leads many to disparage what clearly works well? There are those who advocate homeopathy as a corrective to modern medicine, even though it has more than doubled life expectancy since the 1850s. There are the anti-vaxxers who shun vaccinations that have largely eradicated diseases that used to maim or kill millions of victims. There are those who decry capitalism and free trade that has lifted a billion people out of extreme poverty in just the last few decades. There are the anti-GMO and organic activists who consider modern farming techniques harmful, and would have us return to the small-scale, low-yield agriculture of the past.
And then there are those who want to stop the production and use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have been truly revolutionary. Since 1850 when the widespread use of fossil fuels began to climb, they have relieved billions of people of manual drudgery. As efficient, storable sources of energy, they’ve provided power to machinery and transportation that have enabled economies to boom, lifting billions of people out of poverty. They heat our homes in the winter, cool us in the summer, light our way, and get us where we need to go. They provide the feedstock for medicines and medical devices, plastics, electronics, fertilizers, clothing fibers and more.
In short, fossil fuels have significantly bettered the lives of humanity.
So why do so many advocate for an end to fossil fuels? I believe it’s the same mentality that denigrates free markets, vaccines, and modern agriculture. We as a society have come to take for granted the healthy lives provided by modern technology. Having the luxury of these modern marvels, we forget what life was like before.
And we also forget that there are tradeoffs. No solution is perfect. Indeed there are environmental impacts to all energy development, from fossil fuels to renewables, and to all human activities. The question becomes are the impacts manageable and do the benefits outweigh the costs. Clearly, the benefits in terms of the economy, public health, and prosperity far outweigh the costs, while regulation and innovation continue to reduce environmental impacts.
But there are those across the globe who still lack access to energy and other modern conveniences. Those who are the poorest are the ones who have limited access to fossil fuels, such as the 1.3 billion people who still lack access to reliable electricity. Their lives are harder, less healthy, and shorter. The best way to lift these people out of poverty is to provide them with access to affordable, reliable fossil fuel energy sources.
For those with the mind-set that fossil fuels are evil and must be stopped, we invite you to take the Fossil Fuel Free Challenge and put that belief into practice.