The author Matt Ridley is a realistic optimist. He often takes the less “politically safe” view when it comes to capitalism and the growth of the global economy. The following is a brief quote from his recent essay, “Fossil Fuels will save the world, (Really)” . If your current thinking is fossil fuels are bad and the world will be better off the when we get rid of them, consider this …
“The more energy you have, the more intricate, powerful and complex you can make a system. Just as human bodies need energy to be ordered and functional, so do societies. In that sense, fossil fuels were a unique advance because they allowed human beings to create extraordinary patterns of order and complexity—machines and buildings—with which to improve their lives.
“The result of this great boost in energy is what the economic historian and philosopher Deirdre McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment. In the case of the U.S., there has been a roughly 9,000% increase in the value of goods and services available to the average American since 1800, almost all of which are made with, made of, powered by or propelled by fossil fuels.
“Still, more than a billion people on the planet have yet to get access to electricity and to experience the leap in living standards that abundant energy brings. This is not just an inconvenience for them: Indoor air pollution from wood fires kills four million people a year. The next time somebody at a rally against fossil fuels lectures you about concern for her grandchildren, show her a picture of an African child dying today from inhaling the dense muck of a smoky fire.”
—Matt Ridley, in his essay “Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really),” WSJ March 14-15