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Gifts for life

Fossil fuels have brought prosperity to billions

Gifts for life

An oil rig and pump jack at work in Midland, Texas (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP)

What man has not dreamed at some time of being Adam, plopped on this floating rock and told to survive. It is the theme of many a movie—Swiss Family Robinson, Cast Away—and even escape rooms and post-apocalyptic stories are really disguised fantasies of a first human, blinking in the light, thrown in a world with no instruction manual and ordered to master it (Genesis 1:26). This is both God’s playfulness and His gift to us, the presents He has hidden to be found and unwrapped one by one.

We speak of resources in the earth, but a resource is not a resource until raw material meets human ingenuity. Fire, however stumbled on, was but a fearful curiosity until some genius thought to roast his mastodon over it. Silver, bronze, and gold slept in impatience until Bezalel son of Uri woke their potential as tabernacle lamps and cups that God Himself took pleasure in. 

Which is to say, God meant for earth to bear a human footprint.

Consider fossil fuels. What comes to mind by that phrase? Filth? Pollution? Fossil fuels are caches of living things long dead that God, in His thoughtfulness, saved for us till we should learn to tap their benefit for man. “Come and listen to my story ’bout a man named Jed. Poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed. And then one day he was shootin’ at some food, and up from the ground came a bubblin’ crude. Oil, that is, black gold, Texas tea.” 

We never hear of the positives of fossil fuel, and we never hear of the negatives of wind and solar.

The fossil fuel industry needs better PR. It supplies 80 percent of the world’s power, and makes life bearable and climate-proofed on this rock for large swaths of humanity, yet seems embarrassed about it. The first I ever heard of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) was not from a proud Chesapeake Energy or BP TV commercial but from a neighbor who saw Gasland but didn’t bother to see FrackNation

Yet no other energy source has figured out how to generate electricity, heating, and transportation as cheaply and abundantly and on a worldwide scale. Far from causing climate-related deaths, the fossil fuel industry has protected us from climate-related deaths. It is the industry that powers all other industries. It turned black liquid decay into prosperity for 4 billion people. We need more of it, not less of it, to reach the other 3 billion. 

Look around your room. Most things in it were made with hydrocarbons (fossil fuels)—your pen, the ink on your paper, the buttons on your shirt, your hair products, all coatings on furniture, the fertilizer that grew your clothes, the trucks that brought them to market, your air conditioner or heater. There is no wind or solar way to replace a combine harvester. Outlaw the fossil fuel industry, and you and I will not be inconvenienced: We will be dead. 

We never hear of the positives of fossil fuel, and we never hear of the negatives of wind and solar. But those chic panels on your neighbor’s roof are made using caustic chemicals, require electricity to manufacture, and pose environmental problems in the disposal. Wind and sun are nice but as intermittent and unreliable as, well, wind and sun. Good luck with the Green New Deal’s 10-year plan to meet 100 percent of our energy needs with so-called renewable sources.

To see the horror on people’s faces at the mention of carbon dioxide (CO2), I sometimes wonder if they’re getting it confused with carbon monoxide (CO). Hey, carbon monoxide is that poisonous, odorless gas people commit suicide with by leaving their cars running in a closed garage! Carbon dioxide is that good guy that trees love to breathe, that drives plant growth (that’s why greenhouses trap three times more CO2 than our atmosphere), and that therefore promotes the kind of crop yields that have saved millions from starvation and malnutrition. 

Here’s a question: If the green movement were really about scary carbon dioxide, why are they suppressing nuclear and hydroelectric power too, technologies that produce no CO2 and that are the only other two realistic candidates for worldwide scale energy supply? What is the greens’ real game? It wouldn’t be governmental control of every aspect of human life and economy through a ginned-up environmental crisis. Would it?


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  • Steve Shive
    Posted: Sun, 05/12/2019 07:37 am

    Wow! No comments?

    This is excellent.


  • Caminho
    Posted: Wed, 05/15/2019 06:33 am

    Sorry, I can't agree with the final implication that green policy is about "governmental control of every aspect of human life and economy through a ginned-up environmental crisis" I agree with Andree that we should recognize the great good accomplished through fossil fuels.

    However, carbon dioxide levels really are going up and really are causing a lot of problems. We are free to debate whether we need to curb carbon dioxide levels, and if so how / how much. Perhaps the good done by burning fossil fuels is enough to outweigh the harm they do. But to imply the whole thing is just a conspiracy for governmental control is frankly irresponsible. The scientists proposing various reforms are very genuine in their beliefs. At least the vast majority of environmentalists are genuine in their concern for the poor of the planet who are likely to have more severe weather (or lose land to rising sea levels in rare cases). They may be wrong, but imputing nefarious political reasons to an entire group of people is unfair.

  • AN
    Posted: Wed, 05/15/2019 10:36 am

    But there are those that use these crisies to promote their political agenda. Probably not all, but they do exist

  • Caminho
    Posted: Wed, 05/15/2019 02:31 pm

    Amber is right, there are of course people on both sides of an aisle always eager to exploit a crisis (real or imagined) for political gain.

  • CJ
    Posted: Wed, 05/15/2019 03:04 pm

    Scientists and environmentalists who believe current environmental conditions are primarily a result of natural cycles and have some benefits are also genuine. (Such scientists exist but are unlikely to receive tenure.) Truth is not determined by sincerity, popular opinion, hair-on-fire media, computer models, or little boys extrapolating the effect of plastic straws.

  •  SleeperSRT10's picture
    Posted: Wed, 05/15/2019 02:57 pm

    Well said!

  • McMed
    Posted: Wed, 05/15/2019 08:25 pm

    Thank you for this article! I live in a gas/energy driven state and many family members and friends sacrifice a lot in their energy jobs to bring power to everyone. Drilling by products are the things people need but don't want to admit. Companies have to do a lot of reclamation to help restore the local ecology; that gets overlooked quite often. And this may seem a little rash, but isn't the earth heading towards destruction upon Jesus return? So RESPONSIBLY drilling for oil, doesn't affect the overall picture, IMO.

  •  jrmbasso's picture
    Posted: Thu, 05/16/2019 01:09 am

    Ultimately God’s plan for this world will survive running out of worldly resources and global climate changes. There will be a new heaven and earth provided for those who call Him Lord and trust in His provision. As God stretched out the heavens and the earth at their creation He will roll them up at the end of time. (Hebrews 1:10-12)

  • TxAgEngr
    Posted: Thu, 05/16/2019 08:35 pm

    If an oil or gas operation was proven to have killed an eagle, migratory waterfowl or Kemps-Ridley sea turtle, the oil company would be prosecuted.  A quick Google search of birds killed by wind turbines shows an estimated 573,000 birds killed in 2013 and that the wind turbine industry enjoys a 30 year permit to kill Bald and Golden Eagles without having to share mortality data with the public or to take into consideration such critical factors such a siting.  Now that is some political clout!!  And not a peep from the usual Leftists.  The rest of us are prohibited from engaging in any activity which "MAY" adversely affect an endangered species and the wind turbine industry gets total immunity.  I've seen a proposed roadway near a river rerouted because a tree had what looked like a possible eagle's nest in it.  Once again, "On the Animal Farm, all the animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." 

  • HB
    Posted: Tue, 05/28/2019 06:59 pm

    I'm a bit saddened by the tone of this article. The conclusion might apply to those on the far left of the environmental political spectrum, but there are plenty of other less extreme motivations for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Instead of arguing which is better, how about asking, "how can we do this whole thing better?" and, "what world are we leaving to future generations?" 

    God meant for the earth to bear a human footprint, yes, but what does He intend that to look like? Landfills and oceans full of single-use plastic and waste from other petroleum based products? Rivers and watersheds contaminated by fracking chemicals and other industrial pollutants? Farmlands with soil so depleted and contaminated that only genetically modified crop seed assisted by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides can grow on it? Doubtful.

    When Israel was sent into exile their land was able to "enjoy its Sabbaths."(2 Chronicles 36:21). People can do a lot of harm to God's land by exploiting it for temporary profit and gain, or they can do a lot of good by nurturing life on it and managing it in a way that leaves it healthier and more productive year after year. Is it too far-fetched to believe that as Christians God wants us to bring "Sabbath" to the lands we steward by also renewing and restoring them as we remove their resources for our own gain and benefit?

    How can we responsibly and sustainably extract and use fossil fuels? That's the question I'd rather we ask. We are heavily dependent on them, yet they're not renewable and not in unlimited supply. It's fine to celebrate the prosperity that they've brought, yet arrogant to assume such prosperity can continue indefinitely.  

    Maybe we need to redefine prosperity more along the lines of Proverbs 27:23-27, where it looks more like long-term sustainability and stewardship, rather than short-term riches and wealth.