I am beginning Alex Epstein’s “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels”. After reading a few pages I see that makes a cartoon of the faction that wants to use less FF, or in my words to loose less CO2 into the atmosphere. There are indeed many who fit Epstein’s caricatures. Some of them are smart and they think that they must scare with marginally credible predictions of catastrophe. I shall refer to those as ‘ideologues’ here, for want of a fairer term. Ideologues thus pave the way for books that begin as does Epstein’s. I shall ignore those and Epstein’s mocking of them.

Epstein says that we are smart and can overcome these impending problems. I agree, and now is the time to start. I shall be curious to see if Epstein has a pure market solution. That would be nice. CO2 is a global scale externality, and not even the stratagems of Coase will work here, I think. Or if they will, now is the time for them to commence.

For the record our atmosphere is getting cleaner. CO2 is bad but it is not a particulate. It does not cause asthma. China has a particulate problem and burning less coal would help that.

I share Epstein’s goal of “promotion of human flourishing—realizing the full potential of life”. Among the ideologues are some puritans who want to retrench. Not me. I shall not be satisfied with less than a quantitative argument. Alas neither side has one yet. I want a CO2 tax, but how much?

L 325: Epstein gets to climate change. He notes that some 1970 and 1980 scientific literature worried about cooling. The geologic record suggests 10,000 year warm spells every 100,000 years. We are into year 12,500 of the current spell. I am glad they are worrying. I wish we a better dynamic model for the ice ages. How does such worry reflect badly on science? If we had a credible ice age model it might well bear on the CO2 problem.

A random walk thru the book: (define (p) (* 3069 (random)))

L 113: Club of Rome. Epstein and I have nearly the same opinion.

L 145: Epstein critizes a book by McKibben. I suspect that I agree with Epstein.

L 473: Still on McKibben.

L 519: “Fossil fuel technology transforms nature to improve human life on an epic scale. It is the only energy technology that can currently meet the energy needs of all 7 + billion people on this planet. While there are some truly exciting supplemental technologies that may rise to dominance in some distant decade, that does not diminish the greatness or immense value of fossil fuel technology.”
No argument.

L 619: Epstein introduces a section where he will consider all major energy sources. That sounds quantitative.

L 770: Enumerating intermittence of wind power. True but numbers would address this.
“You can’t build a windmill with a windmill.” True but with a CO2 tax you can let the market decide whether to build a windmill, and out of which materials. Again no numbers.

L 804: about biofuels; lists real drawbacks. no numbers.

L 889: Nuclear; Curiously I seem to be in complete agreement with Epstein regarding nuclear. He likes it but thinks it may not fly due to politics.

L 1389: I am going to skip this one; it is the introduction to a long section on the ‘greenhouse’.

L 1449: Epstein quotes a John Kerry in a somewhat hyperbolic political scare speech. I think that Epstein expects some sort of negative feedback from the increased CO2, which he admits, by other factors, on which he is vague. Granted that negative feed back is more likely than positive feedback, as evidenced by the fact that Earth is not like Venus, but he should suggest a few plausible negative feedback mechanisms that can be evaluated. For instance we might not have time to wait for a new species of algae to soak up the excess CO2 in the ocean.

L 1861: Epstein criticizes celebration of unblemished nature. I agree with Epstein. I like technology. He says “We cannot live without fossil fuel energy.”. No but we can begin moving that way.

L 1899: Climate mastery: granted. We can change it and adapt to it. No numbers: what are the costs of each of these? What might the be in the future? How much valuable land do you loose in the meantime? Epstein suggests moving. He does not mention the politics of moving.

L 1961: “But the doomsayers’ response to the (fortunately) nonexistent tragedy is to express no gratitude for industrial civilization, and to condemn the fossil fuel companies as fundamentally evil.” In my book this comes under Epstein criticizing dumb FF critics.

L 2178: Epstein notes smog in China. I lived in Pasadena CA in 1950 during the worst of the Los Angeles smog. I visited again in 1975 and was astounded at the clear blue sky. I do believe that fossil fuels need not produce smog. I worry about CO2.

L 2270: Danger of producing energy. Poo. I agree with Epstein.

L 2359: Epstein is bashing technophobia. I agree.

L 3010: Epstein is an optimist. So am I. He is summing up. No numbers.

L 3048: Credits