On Energy Messaging
“The only person who can truly persuade you is yourself. You must turn the issues over in your mind at leisure, consider the many arguments, let them simmer, and after a long time turn your preferences into convictions.”
– Milton and Rose Friedman, Free to Choose (1979), p. xii.
I have fruitfully engaged in debates regarding energy and climate on social media, some on Facebook and most at LinkedIn. I comment on views I agree with to add insight. But I commonly engage with my intellectual foes, some of whom are quite confident they have the science on their side and links to prove it.
I learn, while noting the areas of disagreement and why. I remain persuaded that the climate crusade is wasteful and futile–and weath-is-health entrepreneurship is the way forward, whatever the weather and climate of the future.
The best compliment I have received is “you are certainly tenacious.” I do present a set of arguments that cannot be refuted easily. In many cases, this is where my opponents resort to ad hominem, name-calling, or worst.
But for the most part, civility reigns.
In my experience, I have found it important to be polite but firm. Acknowledge a different argument or new data. There is a lot of emotion and ego at stake. And when an opponent goes low, call him out and then get right back to the arguments.
In all this effort (it has been significant), I believe I have planted some seeds for a rethink later on where the person, to quote Milton and Rose Friedman above, takes it in for future decision-making.
My online encounters links these posts I have written recently:
- Climate Models: Worse Than Nothing? (AIER: June 23, 2021)
- Climate, CO2 Optimism (AIER: May 1, 2021)
- Inside the Church of Climate (AIER: April 2, 2021)
- Climate Alarmism Reconsidered (AIER: March 16, 2021)
- W. S. Jevons (1865) on the Limits to Renewables (AIER: February 22, 2021)
On the electricity emergency orders/blackouts (‘greenouts’), I link my two worldview pieces
- The Great Texas Blackout of 2021: Classical Liberalism and Electricity (EconLib: May 3, 2021)
- The Great Texas Blackout of 2021: Is Planning Necessary? (EconLib: May 6, 2021)
as well as approximately 25 (and counting) posts at MasterResource.
Strategy … and Findings
Positive, upbeat themes take my opponents by surprise. After all, they are fearful and discouraged about the future. I emphasize:
- CO2/climate optimism (link above)
- The tripartite fossil-fuel boom: oil, natural gas, and coal
- Human flourishing is the ideal, which requires low-cost, reliable energy
- A ‘silent majority’ supporting affordable, reliable energies.
I also ask the hard questions in a way that puts the Malthusians on the defensive:
- Do you really want to litter the landscape with industrial wind turbines and solar arrays? They require service roads, long-distance transmission, maintenance in the wilds.
- Do you really want ‘a machine in every pristine’?
- Why has Malthusian doom-and-gloom always turned out to be exaggerated, even embarrassingly so?
- Why climate alarmism? (They hate this term because they are just this yet try to come across as reasonable and not dogmatic.)
- Why government coercion between energy adults to implement your program? Are you an Energy Big Brother? Freedom is a good word–government command-and-control is not.
- Why climate alarmism and forced energy transformation?
- If you are for a carbon tax, are you also for international carbon tariffs (‘border adjustments’) to make carbon rationing work?
In these exchanges, I use economical words and phrases to land my points. They include:
- “greenouts” (instead of blackouts)
- “Nil, Baby, Nil (vs. Drill, Baby, Drill)
- ‘a machine in every pristine’
- “energy sprawl”
- “Freedom molecules’ (LNG)
- ‘Cuisinarts of the Air’ (Sierra Club representative)
- unreliables” (Epstein)
- dense, mineral energies (vs. dilute, intermittent, inferior substitutes)
- “It’s hard being green”
- CO2 liberation
- “COP 26 needs to be cancelled to go ‘net zero’”
- Energy elites vs. energy commoners
Climate Debate Point
One argument I have employed on climate change (from Richard Lindzen) is that one can cross the street and not notice the temperature increase that the world has gone through since the 1970s. Yet the alarmists are saying that nature cannot deal with it in a half-century of such gradual change.
I’d make this point at the beginning of a debate to win it.
I find myself using these quotations the most of all.
“The greenest fuels are the ones that contain the most energy per pound of material than must be mined, trucked, pumped, piped, and burnt. [In contrast], extracting comparable amounts of energy from the surface would entail truly monstrous environmental disruption…. The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and so to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.”
– Peter Huber, Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (New York: Basic Books, 1999), pp. 105, 108.
and this from energy’s first philosopher, Alex Epstein:
“The popular climate discussion … looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability … because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.”
– Alex Epstein, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, pp. 126–127.
And from Daniel Yergin [The New Map (p. 422)]:
“As they grow, wind and solar and EVs will need ‘big shovels’ to meet their increasing call on mined minerals and land itself. It is estimated that an onshore wind turbine requires fifteen hundred tons of iron, twenty-five hundred tons of concrete, and forty-five tons of plastic. About half a million pounds of raw materials have to be mined and processed to make a battery for an electric car.”
And who can not recite the wisdom of the father of energy economics, William Stanley Jevons, who wrote in 1865:
“[T]he economy of power … consists in withdrawing and using our small fraction of force in a happy mode and moment.
“The first great requisite of motive power is, that it shall be wholly at our command, to be exerted when, and where, and in what degree we desire. The wind, for instance, as a direct motive power, is wholly inapplicable to a system of machine labour, for during a calm season the whole business of the country would be thrown out of gear.”
– W. S. Jevons, The Coal Question, p. 122.
This article appeared on the Master Resource website at https://www.masterresource.org/debate-issues/energy-messaging-bradley-epstein/]]>