Economist and “Marginal Revolution” blogger Tyler Cowen takes issue with points in Alex Epstein’s 2022 book Fossil Fuels. Cowen believes that it is time to begin changing from fossil fuel use to other energy sources. “We do have to adjust.” Writes Cowen:
“[I] really do think we need to deviate from the world’s recent course with respect to fossil fuels. Now, we can believe that claim and simultaneously believe it would be better if Burkina Faso were much richer, even though that likely would be accompanied by more fossil fuel use, at least for a considerable period of time.
“Epstein focuses on the Burkina Faso sort of issue, and buries the long-term risk of no real adjustment. But we do have to adjust. Why could he not have had the subtitle: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas for a while, and Then Less? Then I would be happier. In economic language, you could say he is not considering enough of the margins.
“I think he is also too pessimistic about the long-run and even medium-run futures of alternative energy sources.”
Alex Epstein responds (at Cowen’s invitation) arguing that Cowen overstates his position:
“Fossil Future [Epstein’s book] argues for increasing fossil fuel use over the next several decades. It does not specify what should happen to fossil fuel use after that but instead 1) provides guiding principles deciding on pro-human policies toward fossil fuel use, and 2) advocates policies in the meantime to maximize the growth of cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuels.
“Allow me to elaborate and illustrate with extensive quotations from Fossil Future, since most readers of Marginal Revolution (and many other readers of this piece) have not read the book and will understandably be skeptical of my claim that Tyler has severely misrepresented it.” Read More. . .
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