Climate Change Is Real – But So Are the Benefits of Fossil Fuel Technology
Today, the price of oil is more than 40% lower than it was 10 years ago.
This should make consumers happy. After all, it has reduced prices at the pump further still. It has lowered inflation. And it has goosed the economy.
It should make investors happy too. Most companies are buyers, not producers, of oil. Lowering their costs reduces prices and boosts net income. And since share prices follow earnings, that’s a plus for the stock market.
But you’ll notice there is one vocal group that is entirely unhappy with the drop in oil: environmentalists. They argue that lower prices will stoke demand and increase greenhouse gases.
I’m not insensitive to their concerns. I’m an environmentalist myself. Not one who sits in an air-conditioned office wringing his hands about the future of the planet. I actually spend a great deal of time hiking in the wilderness, awestruck by the beauty and majesty of the natural world that sustains us all.
Climate change is real. And carbon emissions are a big part of it. Yet the voices of many prominent environmentalists are remarkably shrill:
- Author Bill McKibben writes that “We need to view the fossil-fuel industry in a new light. It has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth. It is Public Enemy Number One to the survival of our planetary civilization.”
- James Hansen, a prominent climate scientist, says oil company CEOs should be “tried for high crimes against humanity and nature.”
- And in a review of Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate in The New York Times, Rob Nixon openly laments that we are unable to bankrupt the major oil companies.
This is not environmentalism. This is mindless anti-corporatism.
How will you heat your home, drive your car or fly from point A to point B without fossil fuels?
Wind power? Hydro? Solar? Hamsters on a wheel?
Fossil fuels aren’t just our primary source of energy. They are used to create everything from plastic chairs to personal computers to lifesaving medical devices.
They have led to continual, groundbreaking improvements in communications, transportation and technology. Their use has correlated with a dramatic increase in income, standards of living and human life expectancy. No other source could possibly meet the energy needs of the more than 7 billion inhabitants of this planet.
So, yes, let’s do what we reasonably can to reduce greenhouse emissions. But that doesn’t require returning to a pre-industrial age.
At some point – and it may be sooner than we think – human ingenuity, technology and entrepreneurship will deliver alternative energy sources that are safer and greener. We know this because the free market provides ample incentives and rewards.
Fossil fuels are the lifeblood of the world economy. They are indispensable. Moreover, the rout in the oil patch in recent years is setting us up, in my view, for one of the great buying opportunities of our lifetimes.
However, you might miss it if you’re busy demonizing the fossil fuel industry.
That’s not just hypocritical and naïve. It’s an assault on human welfare.
About Alexander Green
An expert on momentum investing, value investing and investing based on insider activity, Alex worked as an investment advisor, research analyst and portfolio manager on Wall Street for 16 years. He now runs the wildly successful Oxford Communiqué, ranked as one of the top investment newsletters by Hulbert Digest for more than a decade. He is also the author of four national best-sellers: The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio, The Secret of Shelter Island, Beyond Wealth and An Embarrassment of Riches. He shares his wisdom in his free daily e-letter, Liberty Through Wealth.