At the same time, proponents of fossil fuels often only looked at the positive picture. Instead of explaining why, for example, they thought the warming impact of CO2 emissions was mild and manageable, while the impact of restricting affordable fossil fuel energy would be ruinous, they would only tell positive stories while not addressing CO2 or other issues—reinforcing the idea that they must be really big problems.
The second, more subtle popular framing of our energy thinking is that it is largely anti-human.
It is important with any decision in life to be clear about the goal we are trying to achieve. I believe that the goal of all energy decisions should be to maximize human flourishing. But the goal guiding most energy conversations is to minimize human impact. In arguments about solar and wind, for example, people often focus not on whether wind and solar enhance human flourishing, but whether they reduce our impact on nature, with supporters arguing they are more “natural” and critics responding that they kill birds. But if solar and wind deprive people of energy by making it expensive and unreliable, does it matter whether they are “natural”? And if they are really necessary to save human beings from a climate catastrophe, shouldn’t we use them even if they kill birds? You cannot make good decisions if you’re not clear on your goal—and you can’t make consistently pro- human decisions unless your explicit goal is pro-human.
It turns out that if we are clear on the goal of maximizing human flourishing instead of minimizing human impact, and if we look at the whole picture of our energy choices instead of being biased, then there is an overwhelming moral case for fossil fuels.