Acton Institute Powerblog

Fossil Fuels: The Cure for Poverty

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U.S. households are projected to save an estimated average $550 on gasoline in 2015. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short Term Energy Outlook, “The average household will spend about $1,962 on gasoline in 2015, the first time that average will have fallen below $2,000 in five years.” Readers as well may assume the likelihood that falling fuel prices will exert some type of downward pressure on food and other commodity prices, which will be cheaper to bring to market.

By any realistic measure, this is great news for the United States in general and for the struggling lower middle class and poverty-stricken specifically. To those for whom reality is somewhat more elusive, however, it’s a travesty. Unfortunately, some of these individuals are advocating against the use of fossil fuels at cross purposes with their religious vocations. For example, nine bishops representing The Latin American Bishops Conference, the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences and the French and Brazilian bishop’s conferences called for ceasing the use of fossil fuels: “We express an answer to what is considered God’s appeal to take action on the urgent and damaging situation of global climate warming.”

This Divine appeal comes as news to your writer in the first place, but that it might actually trump the very real appeal of God and Jesus Christ to take care of the least among us is stupefying. Then the bishops double down:

The main responsibility for this situation lies with the dominant global economic system, which is a human creation … In viewing objectively the destructive efforts of a financial and economic order based on the primacy of the market and profit, which has failed to put the human being and the common good at the heart of the economy, one must recognize the systemic failures of this order and the need for a new financial order.

Hoo boy, one hardly knows where to begin unpacking this one much less refuting the wrongheaded and patently untrue claims within. For brevity’s sake, one can start by noting the number of individuals living in poverty has been halved over the past 20 years and finish by quoting from Alex Epstein’s The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels:

It is an undeniable truth that, in providing the fuel that makes modern, industrialized, globalized, fertilized agriculture possible, the oil industry has sustained and improved billions of lives … If we rate achievements by their contribution to human well-being, surely this must rank as one of the great achievements of our time, and when we consider the problems with that industry, shouldn’t we take into account that it fed and feeds the world?

Just so. For the time being – until such a time a cheap, plentiful and cleaner fuel source can be found and implemented – fossil fuels are a blessing to us all, especially the poor.

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Bruce Edward Walker has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.