A Moral Case for Fossil Fuels | An Interview with Alex Epstein

In this episode Calvin Correli talks to Alex Epstein, American author, energy theorist, and industrial policy pundit about his take on fossil fuels and why they should be considered a viable option for energy today despite the popular view.

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Calvin Correli : All right guys, welcome here to Alex Epstein. Alex has written a book called The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, as you can see behind him. And I, I came across you, Alex, um, we were just talking about that. You're saying like four years ago when you were on the Rubin Report, I think I may have discovered it a bit later, to be honest. Because I don't think I got into Dave Rubin until 17.

But you laid out the case, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, and it, I remember hearing it and just went against everything that I believed in, right? I was like, "No, moral, uh, fossil fuel is bad and it's hurting the planet and it's hurting everyone." And you're like, "No, it's actually, it's actually very moral." Like, that was weird to me. And I, you know, bought the book, read it and I've given it to many people now. And yeah, what, what's the deal, man? What is it?

Alex Epstein:  Well, I mean, I'm, I'll be curious what, what you found, uh, persuasive, but as you indicated, I mean, we're definitely all taught that the continuing use of fossil fuels is immoral.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  That if we continue using fossil fuels now and in the next decade and in the next decade, the world is going to become a much worse place to live.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  That's the, the dominant idea. It's often called an addiction. So the idea is it maybe ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... convenient now but in the long run, uh, it's destructive. And we hear that it's already making the world worse today. And just imagine ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... what it's going to do, uh, in the future. And, you know, my view is exactly the opposite. I think that if we continue using fossil fuels, and in fact, if we expand the use of fossil fuels around the world, the world will be a much, much better place to live 10, 20, uh, 30 years from now. And if we seek to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, which is what many people advocate today, so if we make that the goal over the next several decades, we will make our lives much worse in the wealthier parts of the world and we will certainly deprive the poorest parts of the world any opportunity to raise their standard of living. And that, that may seem very implausible to people but I would just, just share one data point that I think is, should be intriguing to us. So I, I was born in the year 1980, when some ... Actually I'm about to be 40, uh, in, in exactly ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... a month, on August 1st.

Calvin Correli :  All right. Congratulations.

Alex Epstein:  And, uh ... That, that's not the point of the, the anecdote. Um, in 1980, think about this ... 42% of the people in the world lived in what we call extreme poverty. So that means they made less than $2 a day. Like think about that. What does, what does it mean to make less than $2 a day? I mean, if you read firsthand accounts of people who make $2 a day, it's something like if they have any kind of home, they live in like a 10 by 10 room with six other people, no running water, you know, distended stomachs because they can't get food, perpetual ... Like, no medical care. I mean, this is you know, the condition ...

Alex Epstein:  Think of this, over four out of 10 people in the world ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... lived in this condition. Now they've taken surveys of people. Like Oxford University had a survey, it wasn't over the last 40 years, it was over the last 30 years. They say, "What's happened to the rate of extreme poverty in the world? Is it getting ..." Because that's a good indication of how good a place the world is to live, how many people are in extreme poverty. "It - has it gotten worse? Has it stayed the same? Or has it gotten better?" So I just asked the audience just to think about like what would be your view, uh, of this?

Or maybe you think this is a setup so you can kind of guess what the answer is. But, but, uh, absent this, and so they asked a group of college educated Europeans so highly educated people, and approximately 55% said extreme poverty is growing, and 33% or so said it's staying the same and 12% said it's getting better. And so what's the truth? The truth is from 1980 to the present, in the last 40 years, extreme poverty has gone from more than four in 10 people in extreme poverty to less than one in 10. So just think about that.

Calvin Correli :  Wow. Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  That's billions of people.

Calvin Correli :  40% of 10%. Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  So like billions of people have gotten out of that completely like dire situation that we would, if we ever fell into, we would consider a complete catastrophe. What we don't know is ...

Calvin Correli :  Is that, is that due to fossil fuel?

Alex Epstein:  Well, I would say yes. But I think the first thing to recognize when we're talking about the world becoming better, the world becoming worse, is to recognize that the world is the best place it's ever been today ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... and it's rapidly improving.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  And so much of the time when people talk about fossil fuels, they have a sense that fossil fuels are central to our way of life. But they have this narrative, the world is bad, and it's getting worse.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  And now you can, if you acknowledge that the world is amazing and getting better, you can still say, "I'm afraid of problems with fossil fuels." But most of the people who say that fossil fuels are bad, they, they act like the world today is bad and getting worse. And then they say it's gonna get even worse.

Calvin Correli : getting worse and worse and worse. yeah. 

Alex Epstein:  But if you can't predict the present, how can I trust you to predict the future? So I think we need to ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... first inventory. When we think about the planet, the world, the state of things, whatever is going wrong and there are things going wrong, it is by far the best place it's ever been, uh, to live. And just to give you an indication, I think that is totally reliant on fossil fuels. And there are kind of two steps to that. One is that the reason we can, we're not, so many people can be out of extreme poverty is extreme productivity. The only way to get out of extreme ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... poverty is extreme productivity. And the thing is, nature doesn't give us the things we need to be wealthy and prosperous, right? We ... Extreme poverty is the natural state. So we need to figure out a way to efficiently produce things like food, clothing, shelter, et cetera. And the way we get extreme productivity is through machines. We get machines to do most of our physical work for us. Now what is energy? Energy is machine calories. So the more efficiently we can produce energy, the lower costs we can produce energy, the more people can use machines to improve our lives. So that's step one, is that prosperity requires machine power.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And then fossil fuels are 80% of our, what I would call our machine calories. So the things that fuel the machines. And they're also still the fastest growing source of energy in the world. And so we should really ask ...

Calvin Correli :  Okay.

Alex Epstein:  Because we always hear we’re on our way out...

Calvin Correli :  Also the fastest growing in terms of percentage? Is the percentage going up or down?

Alex Epstein:  Well, no, the percentage, the percentage has actually been flat for a while. It's been around 80 ...

Calvin Correli :  Okay.

Alex Epstein:  ... to 85, depending on ... But in terms of absolute numbers ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  So really small things can ... I mean, you’re in tech, you know, they can have big growth rates ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... uh, but those can be illusory, too. Like you can have a company you know that, "Oh, we ...

Calvin Correli :  Right, right. Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  ... run 50% a year. And we're gonna outpace Warren Buffett if this continues, uh, indefinitely, right?" But it's hard to do that. So it's just in terms of who can produce low cost energy for billions of people, really, the fossil fuel industry right now is the only one that's demonstrably capable of doing it. Now we can talk about the future but I will just say that the fact is that over the last 40 years, and really over the last, let's say 170 years, people have used fossil fuels to take themselves from extreme poverty, to extreme productivity and prosperity. And there has not yet been anything that's come close in terms of allowing billions of people to use machines at low cost to improve their lives.

I think that again, we can talk about the future, we can talk about A, are their replacements for fossil fuels in the future? And B, we can talk about are there increasing climate risks in the future? But first, we need to acknowledge the present and the past, but particularly the present that we have the best life anyone has ever had and that fossil fuel energy is essential to it. And I don't see most of our leading thinkers acknowledging that at all. They act like the world is terrible and fossil fuels have only done bad. And I know anytime someone has that attitude, I don't trust their predictions about the future.

Calvin Correli :  No, no. Yeah, I, I hear you. So I'm from Denmark, actually. We're, we, we had, uh, we have Bjørn Lomborg, which I'm sure you've heard of...

Alex Epstein:  Wait. Were you born in Denmark?

Calvin Correli :  Born and raised. Yes.

Alex Epstein:  I mean, you have no accent.

Calvin Correli :  No, not a lot. No, no. It's there, it's there.

Alex Epstein:  Ah.

Calvin Correli :  So it come, uh, ...

Alex Epstein:  And Lomborg just came out with a ... He has a book coming out. Actually, I just reviewed it on my podcast. It's really ...

Calvin Correli :  Right. Yeah. Yeah. They made him like Minister of Climate or something when I was, you know ... Yeah, I mean, in Demmark.

Alex Epstein:  Uh, oh, really?

Calvin Correli :  Yeah. Um, it was quite interesting. And I remember having those conversations with, uh, my friends. It was like in 1999 or something like that. And I was living in New York at the time. And, and it was like, I was like, "This is ... This makes sense, right? Like, look, let's look at climate cost benefit." Right?

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  And I remember, and my friends being like, "No, no, yes, it does. But we can't talk about that because if we don't scare people, they're not gonna do anything." Right. That was like literally what my friends would say. And I'm like, "Ah, I don’t think that's helpful, honestly."

Alex Epstein:  Well, I mean, it's helpful to scare people proportionally to the extent there's a demonstrable, uh, risk. I mean, you can say the ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... same thing with ... I mean, this is another controversial issue but if you think about COVID-19, I mean, everyone should agree, there's an amount that people could be scared that's too little ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... and there's an amount people could be scared that's too much.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  And we see that like if people are overly ... Like if they stop everything, right?

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  I mean, you see, like, when people stop everything, we have all these catastrophes, like people not getting medical procedures that they need and not leaving their house and like all the ... So I mean, just with any risk, there's no such thing as like an infinite risk or no risk. So part of the job of anyone thinking about this is to try to get a sense of h- what's the signific- the real significance of this risk and then how does that compare to the benefits that come along.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  So with fossil fuels, I think of it a lot like I would think about taking an antibiotic. Like what are the benefits that I'm gonna get from this that I won't get if I don't use it?

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  But then also, what are the side effects? And, and I think ...

Calvin Correli :  Sure.

Alex Epstein:  ... we need to think of both of those proportionately. Like how significant ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... uh, are they. And I think that people with fossil fuels they tend to very dramatically understate the benefits and overstate the side effects.

Calvin Correli :  Right. So, so, like let's talk about the CO2, right? Like so obviously, there's CO2 emissions. Like ...

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  For me, I'm like whether or not we know that that leads to warmer climate or "climate change" as it's ...

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  ... called now, it seems like releasing a bunch of CO2 into the atmosphere is an experiment on a like planetary scale. We don't, we're only really have one planet that we know off. Right? So, so maybe be cautious about that. What, what is your take there?

Alex Epstein:  Yeah. That's an inter- and this is a really common attitude. Certainly, like Elon Musk is the guy I admire in a lot of ways. This is certainly his view. Like he'll say, "Oh, isn't it crazy that like this is the craziest chemistry experiment ever. Like we're just putting this into the air and why are we doing this?"

Calvin Correli :  Right. 

Alex Epstein:  And well, the reason why we're doing this, we, we have to understand first what's the benefit of doing this.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm.

Alex Epstein:  So I mean, the benefit of doing this, as I mentioned, is machine power for billions of people to go from extreme poverty to extreme productivity. Like ... and that means a planet, if you think of it in terms of the planet, this is a planet where there are eight billion people who have record life expectancy, record income and with record population. So there's more of us and yet we are you know, we live longer, and we have far more, um, opportunity. And I think that's all tied toward low cost energy. If you, if you couldn't produce low cost energy for billions of people, then we go back to nature and there's no way nature can support eight billion people. Couldn't even support 500 million people at a high standard of living.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  Imagine like primitive agriculture, working by hand. Uh, you know, pure organic. Uh, so the thing is, we have to look at okay, the benefit of this is a livable planet. Like for the people alive today, like the ... So if we're concerned about what's it gonna do to the planet, well, what it's doing positively to the planet is making it livable. Because without ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... extreme productivity, the planet is not, uh, livable. So that's a big thing to be concerned about. So really, it's not an experiment to get rid of energy or to, to make energy inaccessible to most people. We know that's a certain catastrophe. And so then the question is, "Yes, when we produce this form of energy, we have no way right now of avoiding CO2 added to the atmosphere." So for example, before we started using fossil fuels, the atmosphere is about 0.03% C02 and now it's about 0.04%. And if we continue to go 0.05%, and maybe 0.06% and that's certainly something that we should investigate. But I think we should investigate ... Investigate doesn't mean be panicked about unless you have evidence. And I thought it was interesting the way you raised and the way other people raised it. There's this assumption that, "Oh, well, well it has to be bad if we're changing, you know, the chemistry of the atmosphere."

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  But if you look at the history of the atmosphere on Earth, at least as far as we know, we're actually at a very low point in terms of CO2. CO2 has been 15 times higher for a lot of the planet's history, and also temperatures have been 25 degrees Fahrenheit warmer for a lot of the planet's, uh, history.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  Now we weren't around, we weren't around for those periods but those were the luscious periods of life. Um, and there's a lot of reasons to believe we can adapt to those but we have no way of even getting close to those. We don't even know if we wanted to, how to put that much CO2, uh, in the atmosphere. So in a sense, it's, we, we can put a ...

Calvin Correli :  I like that way sof saying it... [laughs]

Alex Epstein:  Right.

Calvin Correli :  Like we wouldn't even be able to ... Like we wouldn't even be able to put that much CO2 in the atmosphere.

Alex Epstein:  No, no. And that's, that's relevant, because you, when you're looking at side effects, you have to look at what's the threshold of danger for something.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And part of it is if we were literally at unprecedented levels of CO2 for the planet, like that would be a lot scarier than if we're actually at the low end ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... of the range of, of, um ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... CO2 levels and temperature, uh, in the planet. So my, my view is we should look at this, but we shouldn't assume that it's sig- that it's positive or negative. And if you just think of like ... The, the people who discovered the greenhouse effect, one of the guys in particular Arrhenius, from Sweden, like his view was he actually overestimated how warm it would get. But his view was overall life will be a lot better. Because generally, human beings want warmth and the way global warming works is it works ... It's closer to the poles versus the equator. So it makes the world more uniformly warm. It doesn't just make it super hot at the equator, it makes it warmer, you know, places like Siberia. Uh, certainly, you know, it's supposed to make it a lot warmer. And also it adds a lot of CO2 that can be plant food. So it's generally, you would expect the..

Calvin Correli :  Right, right. But what about then the, the, the oceans, right? That's the obvious thing that people bring up ...

Alex Epstein:  Right. But that, that, that's, that ... Yeah, it is a obvious thing. And so but I'm, I'm trying to give a perspective of ... And, and maybe I should say, I'm, I'm really giving a human focus perspective on this. So when we're looking at changes in the planet, we shouldn't assume, we shouldn't act like, "Oh, if humans caused them, they're good." Or, "If humans caused them then that ...

Calvin Correli :  Oh, yeah.

Alex Epstein:  ... we shouldn't ..."

Calvin Correli :  I mean, that's, uh, that is really and underlying...

Alex Epstein:  We should think about them by how good are they for humans or not.

Calvin Correli :  Right. That's an underlying psychological phenomenon that, that I've been trying to grapple with. Right? It's like, it seems like there's ... like when it comes to climate change, a number of other issues, you know, of these big political issues, there's this tendency to, um, not like humans, right? Like feel, feel wrong or guilty for being a human, for being here, for ...

Alex Epstein:  Yes.

Calvin Correli :  It's like ... even taking up space almost, right? Having any impact, um ...

Alex Epstein:  Yes.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  That's the, that I think is the core to all of this. So just to connect it to everything we've been talking about. If you look at this, the people who say the planet is ... Like we've ruined the planet, I just saw, uh, you know, Joe Rogan yesterday, was like very happily, uh, putting something on Instagram. He had some person on his show about like, talking, calling out industry deniers. And he just said very casually, "Oh, yeah, this woman is talking about the industry deniers who are hiding, that we’re destroying our planet." I'm like, "Okay, we're destroying our planet." Well, destroy, it means to make something worse according to your values. Again, this planet supports eight billion people at record life expectancy with record opportunity. From a human, if you look at the planet from a human perspective, whatever is negative, it's the best planet ever, like the planet 200 years ago ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... couldn’t support us. But the key is, I'm a, uh, my standard of evaluating the planet or anything else is how good is it for human beings. And so ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... I, I often use the term human flourishing, which means human beings living ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... to their highest potential materially and, and mentally. And when we, when, what we've been taught, particularly when we're talking about our surroundings, our environment, is we, we look at it instead with an anti-impact standard. So the idea is, human impact on the rest of nature is immoral and that, that's really the view and then there's the assumption that because it's immoral, it's inevitably gonna destroy us. So people think it's wrong for us to impact the earth so much and of course, it's gonna destroy us and yet we have, we have 200 years of people saying, "Yeah, it's gonna, it's gonna destroy us, it could destroy us."

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  And yet life keeps getting better. And they're, the ... One of the premises behind this is that the planet is perfect and that we ruin it. Versus from a human perspective ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... the planet is very imperfect and we need to transform it dramatically. Now certain things when ...

Calvin Correli :  The planet ... Yeah, the planet as it, like in its raw state is a very hostile environment ...

Alex Epstein:  Yeah.

Calvin Correli :  ... for humans to live in. Right?

Alex Epstein:  Right. So, uh, but think about if that's true and it is true, then how anti-human an idea is it that we should minimize our impact?

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  Because if you have something ... it's like saying we should minimize our impact on disease.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  Like [crosstalk]... and kill it.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah. My concern would be that we don't ... Yeah. My concern would be that we don't like we don't fully understand the parameters. Like Dan Barber, I don't know if you're familiar with him. He's like a chef from New York. And so he, he, he has a TED talk where he talks about like these fish and like this, this place and you know, two fish farms, like one that is like feeding the fish chicken food, whatever like and ...

Alex Epstein:  Uh-huh .

Calvin Correli :  ... and, and like very industrialized kind of thing. And then the other that's in Spain, which where they have this entire ecosystem of all kinds of animals and plants and like natural rivers, and they've created this ...

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  ... amazing habitat for, for fish, right, where, where a lot of the times, we do ... there are, there are parameters that we don't take into account that we don't measure when we look at how we're impacting nature. Right? And, and, and that ends up biting us in the, in the, in the ass later. That would ...

Alex Epstein:  Well, I, I mean that, I mean, it's true of anything where you have sort of incomplete knowledge of all the consequences that are going to, to happen from something. Uh, but I would, I would also caution that we know for sure what happens if we don't have low cost energy for billions of people...

Calvin Correli :  Oh for sure.

Alex Epstein:  That, that's, that's, ...

Calvin Correli :  Oh, yeah.

Alex Epstein:  But that's viewed as, but people take it for granted. Oh, well, they don't even think about the role of energy.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  They only think about the negatives of it. But so, if you're, if you're concerned about some of the negatives, I am sympathetic with that, and we should look into that, uh, but you need to be aware that the positives are literally your life. Like most of us wouldn't be alive with this. And certainly, again, ...

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  ... the, the poorest people in the world have no chance of, of lifting themselves out of poverty, uh, without the ability to use the, this kind of energy. They absolutely need the lowest cost energy they can get. And then, but when you're talking about these side effects, you, you really need to have evidence about what they are. You can't just say, "Oh, well, like we don't know so you're not allowed to do, um, anything."

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  And in particular, with things like CO2, we, we know again, that it's not unprecedented for the planet. We also have 170 years already of increasing CO2 levels. And what we have with the kind of mediocre temperature records we have is, you know, one degree Celsius, which is a little less than two degrees Fahrenheit of warming in 170 years. And in te- if we look at how that's been for human life, not only has human life improved across the board, but the, the death rate from climate related causes of storms, flood, extreme heat, extreme cold, that's down by about 98% over the last 100 years. That means you're 150th as likely today to die as a, of a climate related cause as you were 100 years ago.

And the reason is, is the same thing as, as everything else I've been talking about like nature is not naturally a good place. So nature doesn't give us a safe climate that we make dangerous, it gives us a dangerous climate that we make safe. And we make it safe, we make it safe through extreme productivity. We can produce all of these climate protections that then make the naturally dangerous climate, uh, safe. So we're not ... There's, again, we have 170 years of using fossil fuels, increasing CO2 levels, life getting way, way better. I would say the dangerous experiment would be to stop that ...

Calvin Correli :  Oh yeah.

Alex Epstein:  ... before you have a superior competitor.

Calvin Correli :  So what, the ... why, why that drive? Like why that whole, I mean, if you read the New York Times, right, or like listen to Greta Thunberg or like, like we're about to die like in, you know ...

Alex Epstein:  Yeah.

Calvin Correli :  ... just a few years. Wha- what is the emotional ... uh, people get very emotional about it.

Alex Epstein:  Yeah.

Calvin Correli :  What do you think is the drive?

Alex Epstein:  Why they get emotional about it, why they think that it's so dire ...

Calvin Correli :  Why they feel the ... And why they feel the need to ... Like, it's, it's almost like, yeah, they were so emotional that they can't look at it rationally. Right? They, they have this agenda that they're pushing, um ... Yeah, what's going on? What is your take on it?

Alex Epstein:  Well, I think one, one data point that I talked about in chapter one of Moral Case for Fossil Fuels is that there's 50 years of, of these catastrophic predictions that have been made by some of the leading environmental thinkers. So we're often told, you know, listen to the scientists, which that's really code for listen to the thought leaders that the media select. It's not like we're surveying all scientists ourselves, right? And what's interesting is that if you look at the, the thought leaders that the media, what I call more broadly the knowledge system so all the different cultural and knowledge institutions, the people they select, they've got a 50 year track record of telling us that fossil fuels are gonna cause imminent doom. So you have people like ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... predicting the world's gonna end in 2000, world's gonna be under water by 2000, et cetera. So there's a real question of why, why do they do this? And I think there are two reasons that are going on. And so one is what I call the, the perfect planet premise. So that's the assumption that nature is stable, safe, and sufficient. So absent human beings impacting us, it's like a garden of Eden, doesn't change too much, it's not gonna hurt us, and it gives us all we need. And in reality, the truth is what I call the imperfect planet premise. Like nature is dynamic so it's changing all the time in all kinds of ways.

It's dangerous and it's deficient. It doesn't give us what we need at all. But if you believe in this perfect planet premise, what you fear above all is human impact. Because you think anything we do to disrupt the delicate balance of the perfect planet, that's gonna go haywire and we're all ... and particularly my age, uh, on down, we're all indoctrinated with this idea that nature exists in a delicate balance. We think of it as this perfect godlike thing that if we disrupt it, it's gonna get ruined.

And so that's, that is a, that's a dogma. It's really a religious assumption but it's deeply embedded in our thinking. And even in modern environmental science, they just have this view that the planet, uh, is perfect. And I think the other thing that's going on which is related, so you can think of the perfect planet premise is the idea that human impact is inherent, is inevitably self-destructive. That's the, that's the consequence of it. But there's also a moral view, which is just that human impact on nature is intrinsically immoral. And I think this is what you're getting at before. Just that it's wrong for us to make our-

Calvin Correli :  Yeah, I remember having to [crosstalk]...brother, right? I used to kind of believe that like, "Oh, like, uh ..." I had this when I was in high school conversation with my brothers, like, "Yeah, this like nature pristine and like humans, we shouldn't like impact or touch. We should ...

Alex Epstein:  Yeah.

Calvin Correli :  ... leave everything exactly what it was." And then, and he was like, "Well, like, that's not human, that's not what humans have ever done. It wouldn't work, right?" [laughs] Like, but, yeah, I can re- I can relate to that ...

Alex Epstein:  Yeah, I like your brother.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah, right?

Alex Epstein:  I like  his attitude ... But, but we do have this view that impact is immoral and you just think about it's, it's lionized that, "Oh, somebody who makes very little impact is a very low footprint." Like, that's is ...

Calvin Correli :  Is that honestly ...

Alex Epstein:  ... your a very good person.

Calvin Correli :  Right. Is that, is that because we hate ourselves so much and we feel so guilty about just our na- like existence...

Alex Epstein:  Well, there's, there's, there's a lot of …[crosstalk]

Calvin Correli :  ...like original sin? [crosstalk] And so it's whatever, you know, you have must be bad.

Alex Epstein:  It's definitely you have secular ...

Calvin Correli :  Right?

Alex Epstein:  Yeah, it's a secular ... I mean, that's a really interesting historical question, but it's definitely like a secularized and I'd say much more anti-human form of original sin.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  Because it's basically saying that ... Um, I mean, I'm not religious, but you know, at least in the, you know, if you look at the Bible, in the Bible, it says, like human beings should prioritize themselves, uh, above others. Like it views human beings as, as good. I mean, in a sense. Certainly good compared to the other animals, whereas the modern view is basically everything human beings, in fact, is bad ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... and everything the rest of nature does is, is natural, uh, and good. So it you know, we've talked about the causes, but this, this deep guilt and this, this belief that just our impact is bad, it's ever ... I'll just give you one example of how this manifests, that occurred to me a couple years ago that really ... I've just thought about it all the time, ever since I came up with it. I thought, "You know what? The New York Times, all these leading media institutions, they're constantly talking about, um, like, you know, energy every day. Like in one form or another, energy. And yet, how often do they talk about the fact that three billion people in the world have virtually no, use virtually no energy?"

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  Like and a lot of them are using wood and animal dung, which has terrible indoor pollution. But the main thing is they're not empowered. They don't have the machine power necessary for extreme productivity. Like I never hear about that. I mean, I never hear about that and yet, that's, if you realize, if you care about human life, that's a tragedy. Right?

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  That is a tragedy that's holding billions of people back. And yet how many stories do we see about disruptions to the patterns of polar bears? Like all the time.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm . Right.

Alex Epstein:  And, uh, polar bear's my favorite animal, by the way. So I love polar bears. But there's something really perverse about being so obsessed with these remote polar bears and nobody even ever sees or goes to see or really ... but ... And having no concern for three billion people not having energy. And the reason is because the standard that we're using to evaluate things is not really human life. It's unchanged nature or minimal impact ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... or green [crosstalk]

Calvin Correli :  Well, and it's also-

Alex Epstein:  Our priorities are so inverted.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah, you're ... It's right. But it's also I bet like these people, if, if it impacted their life, right, and now they have to go out and live in a tent and couldn't have heating or like, you know ...

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm.

Calvin Correli :  ... buildings or things like that, or food in the supermarket, they might be upset about it. But if it impacts three billion people that they don't really see, then don't care about that so much, right?

Alex Epstein:  Yeah, but I mean, at least, at least it should be you'd expect the leaders of the culture. The people are supposed to be intelligent, who are supposed to be sharing with us, these are the most important issues and this is the best expert knowledge you would assume that they would care about. They certainly care about poverty but their, but their focus on poverty is, "Oh, climate change is going to affect, uh, poor people." But, but it's all about ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  It's caring about poor people in so far as that's validation of your view that impact is bad.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm.

Alex Epstein:  It's part of this whole narrative that ...

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  ... we're gonna go to hell on earth because we use this. But there's not an actual like ...

Calvin Correli :  Again, it's like ... It's religion right?

Alex Epstein:  ... all those religions don't care about ... It ... Yeah, it's, it's, it's a, you know, it's a very anti-human, uh, religion, but part of the danger of it, is it presents its ... I mean, it's, it's uniquely anti-human, that's part of it. But it's also, it has a uniquely false claim to science.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  So usually like with most, um, like most religions don't get consulted on what's gonna happen to the climate in the future and what we should do about it. But unfortunately, the, many people or at least the, the leaders who are transmitting the science of climate and I think often distorting it, these are often people who believe very deeply that our impact is bad. For example, Michael Mann, one of the leading climate scientists in the world, like he'll post on Twitter that the world has eight times too many people. Like that his view.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm.

Alex Epstein:  Like there should be a billion people.

Calvin Correli :  All right. Volunteer man.

Alex Epstein:  Like, I mean, first of all, you go first. Yeah. That’d probably help out a lot. But, um, you just think about, like people with that religious view, that anti-human religious view and they're giving scientific recommendations, but the question is, A, if they have this false narrative that anything we impact is gonna be destructive, if they have that, that's a dogma, that's, that's prejudicing them. But also if in the end, they don't value human life, so if they're concern is with preserving the rest of nature, not improving human life, then they might think that ... Let's say a two degree warming since, uh, the 1800s, which is what a lot of people are afraid of, like, there's no way that's actually gonna be a big problem for human life. But they might just think that's immoral. It's wrong for us to have changed it. So even if our life is way better ...

Calvin Correli :  Right. I mean, even when you're-

Alex Epstein:  ... we shouldn't have done it.

Calvin Correli :  Right. Lomborg, that was the thing. It's like, "Well, yeah, but you might not, you know, might be looking at it cost benefit and what, what is it, what are the actual consequences?" But it's wrong to look at it that way. Right?

Alex Epstein:  But he's, he's ...

Calvin Correli :  You shouldn't ...

Alex Epstein:  Because he's looking at it from a human perspective. I think that's what's good about ...

Calvin Correli :  Exactly.

Alex Epstein:  ... his approach in his new book, uh, which is coming out in July. It's called, uh, False Alarm. But I, I got a review copy and I thought it’s overall ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... excellent. Like he's constantly viewing it as, "Okay, what is this actually going to do to human life?" And he thinks ... so he and I have different views. I mean, he thinks that overall, the negatives of the CO2 by itself, leaving aside the energy that we get with it, he thinks they, they're gonna be net negative. I think we really don't know, uh, one way or another, but he mostly acknowledges that the positives we're gonna get with fossil fuels overall, if we consider the CO2 and the energy billions of people are gonna get are way higher. And one thing he points out is, "Look, human beings are so, uh, adaptable." And he, like he'll point out to people ... You'll hear these claims about, "Oh, we're gonna have all these climate refugees because everyone is underwater." And he points out, you know, there are already 110 million people in the world who live below sea level.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  Like because of our adaptability right now.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And he'll ... But one, one thing that's really interesting about his work and I particularly recommend this book of his and what he shows is how, what the real scientists say gets totally distorted by what I would call the knowledge system, by the different transmission mechanisms. So he'll show, uh, this claim that you'll hear from this guy, David Wallace-Wells, the Uninhabitable Earth, about like 170 million refugees and all this money. And then he'll show the original study, and the original study will say, "This will only be true under these assumptions about climate but also if human beings don't adapt, but of course, they will adapt and therefore, this will be quite manageable.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  But the media leaves out, "Of course, they will adapt." So they a- they predict the future for a bunch of lemmings, not human beings.

Calvin Correli :  Uh, right. Yeah. Because they have an agenda, right? I mean, human beings are innovative and creative and adaptable and resilient like the ...

Alex Epstein:  Yeah.

Calvin Correli :  It's always been that way. Right? Well, so clearly like your, your take on this is not the mainstream view, right? Like, um, it's a ...

Alex Epstein:  Oh, yeah.

Calvin Correli :  ... it's a "unpopular opinion, opinion," uh, like goes against religious heresy at this moment.

Alex Epstein:  I would say it's more of an unknown opinion. But ...

Calvin Correli :  Right. In, in what way? Like, people haven't heard it or ...

Alex Epstein:  Well, there have been people ... Well, yeah, I don't think most people have heard this idea that fossil fuels are actually making the world a better place to live.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And they don't ...

Calvin Correli :  Yeah. What's the ...

Alex Epstein:  So there's a monopoly on the view that they're bad. And whenever you have a monopoly, you have no ... I mean, you have no competition and ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... you have really weak ... I mean, if you think about a market, like a government created monopoly, like really weak product ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... can succeed for decades.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And so really weak arguments can succeed for decades if they've gotten a monopoly. But, you know, what starts to happen if people start to debate it, what I see is, you know, that David Ru- that The Dave Rubin show was, was helpful, but I, I need to do more of this kind of thing. But ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... the more people see the views up against one another, they see, "Oh, wow. It's ..."

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  No, this other side really isn't looking at fossil fuels the way we would look at antibiotics or vaccines, they're not really looking at the benefits and the side effects proportionally, they're not really measuring good and bad by human flourishing.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And if we do that, we at least have a very different view than, "Fossil fuels are terrible, we need to eliminate them."

Calvin Correli :  Yeah. So wha- what is, wha- Has, have you experienced like backlash, like you know, is it, has it been difficult for you to have an unpopular point of view or ...

Alex Epstein:  I mean, I would, uh ... Basically I would say no, but part of it is ... So I admit, part of this is my own constitution but I don't think that's ... So I mean, like I just have a model in my head of like, "There's such thing as reality and there's, uh, such thing as what people say. And sometimes what people say maps to reality and sometimes it doesn't. Often it doesn't. And I'm only concerned with what they say in so far as it maps to reality." So if somebody gives me a good argument about why I'm wrong, then that's interesting to me and, and it'll bother me. And sometimes people will prove me wrong about something and then that'll bother me and then I'll change my view, uh, on something.

But if somebody just says, "Oh, you're a climate change denier," which, not at all, that's not even a coherent term. Like, we don't, they just make something up or they just repeat what they've heard. It's the same as if they say, like, "You're an idiot for believing in evolution." Like, no, I believe in evolution because - I don’t nearly have as much knowledge about it as I do about energy. But like, I, I believe this about the scientific evidence. And if you want to, uh, give me an argument, then I'm open to that. But the fact that you believe in a dogma and you're just mouthing it to me, that has no significance. And I think that ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... a lot of people, it, it don't have that kind of like clear distinction between just reality and what other people say. And I think that helps a lot. But the other thing is, I get really positive feedback. I, I wish I actually got more negative feedback. Because if I got more negative feedback, then I mean, that would mean I'm reaching more people. So part of reaching a lot of people is it's polarizing and you get negatives. But just for people who are considering these views, I would say one benefit of them is there are a lot ...

If you express them articulately and really with conviction, you just explain why you believe them and why it's so important, uh, a lot of people will be really grateful to you. Particularly in today's culture, where there's so much fear of saying what you think, people ... I mean, certainly right now in the culture, it's unbelievable. Just nobody can say what they think about anything. And so somebody who actually just says what they think, it means so much to so many people and people will tell you about it. So I, I just feel like the world has been very nice to me, uh, for having these views and I look forward to, to influencing more people. And that'll be more nice things and more main things. But again, the main things are only valuable insofar as they're true and most of them are ...

Calvin Correli :  Sure.

Alex Epstein:  ... not making good arguments so it doesn't really matter. And I hope people take that attitude to like, "Oh, what does Aunt ..." Uh, you know, I'm trying to make up a fake name, because I'm not, I don't have an antagonistic aunt. But it's like, uh, you know, uh, what does my aunt, uh, uh, Christine ... jewish family so I don’t have an aunt Christine. Like, uh, what does my aunt Christine ... Like is she right? Does she have evidence? Otherwise, is ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... life is too short to care about what people ...

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  ... dogma think.

Calvin Correli :  How did you get on- onto this stuff? Like what was your journey with it?

Alex Epstein:  Um, so my background is philosophy. So that's my main sort of primary interest. And so philosophy, you, you can think about ... uh, think of it as philosophy is really the study of the frameworks that guide our thinking and action. So framework like a, a framework of a building is the starting structure of a building. And so the framework of your thinking is the starting structure of your thinking. What are the values and assumptions and methods that guide your thinking? So something like I talked about looking at the benefits and the side effects, I think of that as looking at the full context. That's a method that, you know, I have from philosophy that then I apply. Or values like, I placed top value on human flourishing versus unchanged nature. That's an issue of philosophy.

Or assumptions, like I view the planet as imperfect, not perfect. And my belief is that those core elements of our framework, they shape everything about how we think about things, how we talk about things, how we succeed. And I had ... So that was my interest and my background. And then, in 2007, I had no interest in energy and I, I, I mean, I wasn't a cli- what I would call a climate catastrophist, but I was definitely afraid of what we were doing, uh, climate-wise and I had no real positive, uh, associate ... I certainly didn't know anyone in the fossil fuel industry, which people sometimes think is true.

Um, but I started, I, I was exposed to the history of energy and that really made clear to me this point that, "Oh my gosh, like, before people had low cost energy, there was just extreme poverty everywhere. Except if you had like the political power to basically command or put others in servitude." Because then instead of having machines do your work for you, you'd have other humans. But that's not ethical and obviously doesn't scale to a lot of people. And so we just did this amazing thing where we figured out how to produce energy at low cost and that allowed everyone to use machines and become productive.

And I really then became interested in how are we thinking logically about energy today. Because I thought of it as everything we do to increase the cost of energy is gonna increase the cost of everything and make life worse, and everything we can do to reduce the cost of energy makes everything lower costs and makes life better. And I just, that, with that context, I started looking at it and I thought, "Oh my gosh, people are not looking at all at the benefits of fossil fuel energy and nuclear energy.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  They're only looking at side effects. And then with solar and wind, they're only looking for benefits and they're not looking at side effects."

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  And so I just became really interested in what's the truth and then that became a very long research project.

Calvin Correli :  Got it. Yeah. The ... It's, um, yeah, in Denmark, you know, the, the, the most recent election, I'm, I'm, I haven't lived there for 10 years, so I'm, I'm not really paying much attention because like all about the planet right...

Alex Epstein:  Is it really only 10 year?

Calvin Correli :  That ... Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  I don't understand your accent. I don't understand why you don't have an accent.

Calvin Correli :  Well, well, I'll tell you...

Alex Epstein:  That's more interesting than this.

Calvin Correli :  Right. From, from, from when I was a kid ... So I'm 46, from when I was a kid ...

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  I was born in '74, um, I was always oriented towards America. I was fascinated with America. I learned to program before the PC was invented, my dad would bring home computers from America, and books, programming books, and I would like .... Somehow I managed to pick up English on my own via programming before I was taught in school.

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  Um, not like conversationally, right, but it just kind of got into my brain. And then I had a teacher in eighth grade, that, an English teacher that allowed us to choose whether we want it to be graded based on U.S. or British English Pronunciation and spelling. Um, and I was like ...

Alex Epstein:  There you go.

Calvin Correli :  There's two people in my class that were, were, you know, went with U.S. and, uh, for me, there's no question. And yeah, so it was always ...

Alex Epstein:  That's awesome.

Calvin Correli :  ... kind of oriented towards America. Yeah. I have, you know, a map of America in the back.

Alex Epstein:  I was wondering about that.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah, I love this country so much and, and, you know, I want to do everything. I actually have ... In, in, uh, '13, I was living in India for a year because I was having trouble getting a visa to the US. Like, so I've been here multiple times, right? The first time was '99 for, for like two and a half years and then went back and it was supposed to be just a qui- quick stop. Couple years in Denmark.

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  Ended up being more like 10 years. Um, got divorced, remarried. Uh, my new wife and I ended up in India for a year. And while I was out there, on my birthday in '13, I had this vision of, of like, she asked me a question, like, um, "If you could do anything, what would you do?" And what came out of my mouth was completely surprised me was, "I want to be a Special Advisor to the President of the United States on conscious nation building." And I was like, "What the hell does that mean?"

And then I like I had tears in my eyes for like 20, 30 minutes, but there's this like deep love for America and just helping America like get clarity on stuff, which is why I'm passionate about you know, climate change is one of the new religions that I think is not helping us, right? Um, or like the, that view and all kinds of other areas when it comes to how we organize ourselves as a society.

Alex Epstein:  Cool, that's good to hear. That, that makes sense that you chose U.S. English. That, that makes a lot of sense. Yeah.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. Yeah. Um, so like, what is your, what is your take on nuclear? Because I remember, again, as a kid in the '80s in Denmark during these like anti-nuclear, you know, demonstrations, and I was like ...

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  I just remember thinking, I don't know that it's that bad. Like, you know, seems like a pretty decent source of energy. But everybody decided that nuclear is terrible. It seemed right.

Alex Epstein:  Yeah. I mean, there's a, a real quick ... It's interesting that it's ... think about how it's categorized. It's like, nuclear is terrible. So what is, I mean, nuclear ... there are different kinds of nuclear, but the main type is called fission. So it involves splitting an atom in, in certain ways. The, the basic idea is the nucleus of an atom contains just this unimaginable amount of energy.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  And so if you can figure out a way to release it, then you can generate huge amounts of energy. If you do it, if you make it explode, which is what a bomb does, you know, obviously, it can generate huge amounts of energy that's intended to be destructive. Uh, but you can also basically use it to generate amounts of heat that can't explode, but that can power, you know, what's called a turbine that, you know, turns around and essentially generates electricity, uh, that way. And it's interesting that people act like ... The, the view of anti-nuclear basically means no form of this should be explored or considered. Now, that is, in my view, that is a crazy starting point for something. I mean, you could say, maybe there's a type of nuclear reactors. You take something like Chernobyl, like that's something that was ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  The, the, the, the danger of that is totally over stated, I mean, by many orders of magnitude. But nevertheless, you could say, "Oh, this type of reactor is bad."

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  Okay, maybe. Um, and certainly that one. I mean, everything the Soviet Union made, uh, was dangerous. One economist said like, you know, they, a Soviet toaster was a, you know, was a deathtrap. I mean, uh ... So ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  Of course, they were to, gonna make the deadliest nuclear plant history, but even the documented deaths is something like 100 that they can really show. But ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... it's so, it should be weird that there's this anti-nuclear versus anti-specific abuse of nuclear.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  And then if you look at the history of it, it has the best safety record by far of any form of energy.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  I mean there are no deaths from nuclear accidents ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... leaving outside Chernobyl. So any part of the free and civilized world, you know. Look at Fukushima, you look at Three Mile Island, the supposed disasters, like there's economic damage there and there's actually damage from evacuating people in too much haste, which can kill elderly people ...

Calvin Correli :  Hmm.

Alex Epstein:  ... uh, in particular. But in terms of ... nobody died from the radiation.

Calvin Correli :  Right. It seems to me the, the-

Alex Epstein:  It's actually the safest form of energy. It has a lot of benefits but in terms of side effects, it has, it has the least side effects of any form of energy.

Calvin Correli :  Right. And it seems to me like when we, when we got so scared of it back in the ... I don't know when it was, it was in America but like in Denmark, it was like the mid-'80s or something, right?

Alex Epstein:  Mm-hmm .

Calvin Correli :  It was like we stopped innovating at, at the same pace. Imagine if we kept innovating in nuclear.

Alex Epstein:  We reverse innovated because we made it more expensive. You look at the costs ... I mean, the, the raw materials of nuclear have not become more expensive and human beings haven't become dumber, yet ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... it costs several times more today to produce nuclear energy than it did in the past even adjusted for inflation.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And so the reason is, is because it's demonized as unsafe, then in effect becomes criminalized through so many restrictions on how quickly you can develop and how many layers of safe, so-called safety you need. And if you do enough of that, I mean, if you need to ... Any project becomes prohibitive if you have, if you pour enough resources and enough people into safety. It's just like if you ...

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  You know, if I had five bodyguards, if they said, "Alex, like you're in danger. You need five ..." I could not live. I don't have the money to afford five bodyguards, uh, all the time.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And so in effect, they're ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  But then it says it's completely excessive. And so for nuclear, it's actually the safest form of energy and yet it's criminalized as if it's the most dangerous. So I think in terms of ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... if you look at ... I mean, one perspective is one thing that makes fossil fuels really good is they have these three natural advantages over most other sources of energy. So they're naturally stored energy. So like, if you think about the sun and the wind, they're not stored, there's these intermittent flows that aren't working most of the times, then you have to figure out a way to somehow store them so that you can get them ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... reliably. They, they sort of start out reliable. Whereas fossil fuels are naturally concen- they're naturally stored. Um, they're naturally concentrated. So they have a lot of ... Like oil in particular, stores a lot of energy in a small space, which is particularly good for transportation. It also means you need ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... less resources to make use of it, because you're starting with something small versus solar and wind take a lot of space to do so you need a lot of solar panels and infrastructure. And then they're naturally abundant. Now, solar and wind are naturally abundant, but they're not naturally stored and they're not naturally concentrated. Interesting about nuclear is it’s naturally stored, it's naturally way more concentrated than fossil fuels, and it's way more abundant than fossil fuels. So in terms of the raw potential of ... and we know how to harness it with fewer side effects than anything including fossil fuels.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  So in terms of the raw potential of it, it's the most exciting thing. But unfortunately, it arose in the, in the era of what I would call the anti-impact movement, which is often called the environmentalist movement.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  But I don't, I think of them as this anti-impact movement.

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  And so there's just this view of, "Oh, it's changing nature, it's playing God.”

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  We shouldn't be splitting the atom, we shouldn't be creating this waste." And so it was so crim- demonized and criminalized that it has never gotten the chance to innovate and compete. So we really have, to your point, we have no idea what its potential could be. But it's already way better than solar and wind. If you look at the full cost ...

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  ... of solar and wind ... 'cause solar and wind, you not only need to pay for the solar panels and wind turbines, you need to pay for all the reliable energy that gives it life support all the time ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... because it can't exist on its own. It's, it's a parasite. Whereas nuclear, at least for electricity, can basically exist on its own.

Calvin Correli :  Right, right.

Alex Epstein:  Uh, and so it's ready ...

Calvin Correli :  So let me ... I know ... I want to respect your time. We're running up on the hour. I want to run ... So I've been thinking about this from a psychological perspective, right? Like ...

Alex Epstein:  Okay.

Calvin Correli :  ... it seems to me that the, the, what happened back in the '80s when we stopped doing nuclear was based on an irrational fear, right? Fear ran away with us and we're like, "Too dangerous." Like, "You can meltdown, whatever." Like, and-

Alex Epstein:  Fear and guilt I would say. Yeah.

Calvin Correli :  Right, yes. And then fast forward today, if we hadn't had that, basically that would be like, you know, the whole like CO2 thing would be solved, right? Like, just go full on nuclear and like it wouldn't really be a thing. But what we're seeing today is the same exact, irrational fear and guilt causing us to do stupid things, again, as a society. Right?

Alex Epstein:  Right. And still the opposition, uh, to nuclear. But one, one, I think, really powerful point that shows there's something really off with today's environmental movement, which I call the anti-impact movement, is that they claim that priority number one for our future is lowering CO2 emissions ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm.

Alex Epstein:  ... and yet they oppose nuclear energy ...

Calvin Correli :  Oh.

Alex Epstein:  ... which is by far the most promising way of lowering our CO2 emissions.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  They're also opposed generally to large scale hydro, which is the second most promising. Hydro is actually a little bigger than nuclear globally.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm.

Alex Epstein:  But it only works when you have the right type of body of water and the right type of topography. Whereas nuclear, you can theoretically ... We don't, can't use it that well for transportation yet, but you can certainly use it for electricity for a lot of different kinds of heating applications. And yet today, the modern environmental movement is against it. And despite again, the fact that it's got the most benefits of the non-carbon forms of energy has the fewest side effects of any form of energy. And so it has to be this kind of religious thing, that it's just wrong for us to be splitting the atom, it's tampering with nature, it's unnatural, it's inevitably going to 'cause some consequence that we need to be afraid of, and we just shouldn't be doing it.

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  Like we should just live a more natural life, live off the sun, live off the wind. Never mind that that involves all sorts of mining. It's this idea of we need to be renewable, we need to be natural.

Calvin Correli :  Yeah.

Alex Epstein:  So I think that so much of the anti-fossil fuel movement is philosophical, which is part of the reason as a philosopher, I became interested in it because I, I think it's not ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm .

Alex Epstein:  ... it's not that a bunch of scientists have figured out that fossil fuels, uh, are bad. It's more like a bunch of people with an anti-human, anti-impact philosophy are totally distorting the science. They're taking a grain of truth, which is that fossil fuels have some warming influence on climate, which I believe, but they're turning that into fossil fuels are rendering the world uninhabitable, which that ignores all the ...

Calvin Correli :  Right.

Alex Epstein:  ... benefits of fossil fuels, it ignores that the, the side effects are much more mild than we think and it ignores that part of the benefit of fossil fuels is that we can be incredibly adaptable to anything ...

Calvin Correli :  Mm-hmm.

Alex Epstein:  ... that can plausibly happen.

Calvin Correli :  Right. Yes, exactly. And adapted, innovative. We have time, we have resources to create. Yeah, that's ... So, um, thank you for, for doing this work, Alex. I really appreciate you, uh, putting yourself out there with this and having writ- written the book and shared this with us. That's, I think it's super powerful. Um, I have two questions.

Alex Epstein:  Yeah. My pleasure.

Calvin Correli :  I have two questions that I was ...

Alex Epstein:  Yes. And can I just tell people where they can get more info if anyone was interested.

Calvin Correli :  Well, that was first. That was my first question like, where do ...

Alex Epstein:  I love it.

Calvin Correli :  ... where, where do I send people? Where like, obviously, get the book? It's really, really worth reading. You know ...

Alex Epstein:  Yeah, the easiest place is if you just go to the website, industrialprogress.com. That's, uh, Center for Industrial Progress. That's my website, industrialprogress.com. I'd say just if, if you're interested in these ideas, sign up, we have a free weekly newsletter and that includes also a free course on energy. And that's the best way to learn about everything. And then I'm also on all the different kinds of social media so you can find me there, I'm Alex Epstein.

Calvin Correli :  The second question is like what is the one thought that you want to leave people with?

Alex Epstein:  Um, I would say that, you know, fossil fuels have made the world an unnaturally good place to live and fossil fuels can, uh, make the world an even more unnaturally good place to live in the future.

Calvin Correli :  All right. Let that stand. Thank you so much, Alex. Really appreciate your time.

Alex Epstein:  Thanks for having me.


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