Saving the world with fossil fuels
The must read article this morning is Matt Ridley in the Wall Street Journal, who points out that little-mentioned but rather critical point about fossil fuels – we can’t do without them. As a teenager’s bedroom generally illustrates, left to its own devices, everything in the world becomes less ordered, more chaotic, tending toward “entropy,” or thermodynamic equilibrium. To reverse this tendency and make something complex, ordered and functional requires work. It requires energy. 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. I don’t think the greens are going to like it.
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