An Earth Day discussion with me, Rick Perry, and the TX State Climatologist
We discuss: how to use climate data, the state of climate, the risks of bad "climate policy," how to foster alternatives in a cost-effective way, and much more
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in an Earth Day discussion organized by former Texas Governor and US Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Governor Perry, a public champion of my book Fossil Future, invited me along with Texas A&M Professor and Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon to join him at Earthx. Earthx is an enormous Earth Day convention held in Dallas, TX and spearheaded by real estate mogul Trammell Crow.
The audience featured a wide variety of successful businesspeople, many in the “green” space. I was excited for the opportunity to challenge this audience’s preconceptions, and to discuss/debate issues with Dr. Nielsen-Gammon. As it turned out, Nielsen-Gammon and I had some interesting disagreements but also many interesting points of agreement. Also, I want to thank him for being extremely cordial and fair toward me during the event. That is, unfortunately, a rare treat when it comes to public disagreements on energy and climate.
Here’s a rough video of the event taken from the audience—I’m waiting for the official, high-quality video—and a transcript, edited only to remove some stage directions and false starts. In the transcript I’ve bolded my favorite points that I made, as well as some notable comments by the others.
Thanks for all of you being here today and for your participation. John, the climatologist from Texas A&M, come on up. So, Alex, I'd hate to tell you right off the bat, it's two against one up here, because we're both Aggies, so I just want to give you that as we're starting out here. And Alex will probably say, ‘Well, it would take two of your brains to equal half of mine.’ But Alex Epstein is one of the most brilliant young men that I've run across. We were doing an energy conference in 2017 in South Africa. I just happened to show up, and I listened to him. He made abundant good sense to me, and he has a book today. Then, that book was The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, and that was five, six years ago. And, he has a new book today that's kind of taken the world by storm the best I can tell called Fossil Future.
Anyway, Alex Epstein. Alex, come on up.
We can walk and talk, and if any of you get overcome with a Baptist upbringing and you want to get up and preach, just have at it. Trammell, again, I want to say thank you for you and your family and what your family has done for this state and this country over the course of the years for being the catalyst for this, bringing people together. I don't make any excuses or apologize to anyone about my beliefs. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool, red-blooded American. Wayne Christian, who's our railroad commissioner, is here today. As the Governor of Texas, I had the great privilege to oversee this state as we made this transition, if you will, from older, inefficient coal burning plants... I get the caveat of being the father of the wind industry in the state of Texas, because we brought wind energy into Texas in a short five-year period of time. I think I'm right in this, in about a five-year period of time. We went from frankly not having much wind energy at all to being the number one wind-energy producing state in the nation, and we produce more wind energy in the state of Texas now than all but five other countries.
Thank you, Rick.
Yeah. Five other countries. So, as all of you know, we were a country once, and we're kind of proud of that, and as a matter of fact, today's April 21st, which is San Jacinto Day. In 1836, that's when we started to have changing leadership in the state of Texas. So, it's appropriate that we would be here on San Jacinto Day in the great state of Texas on the fairgrounds, in the fair park, talking about one of the great issues of our lifetime, I think, as we deal with... And I'm a Christian. I don't make any apologies about my Christian faith as well. And, the Bible tells us that we need to always be in pursuit of truth.
And so, that's really why I told Trammell that I will come and participate in this today, is to try to have a conversation, a discussion, about the truth, dealing with a number of issues. We're going to talk about obviously fossil fuels, and we're going to talk about the importance of fossil fuels. Andy, you and I were just talking about, the refining industry around the world is running about 98%. And listen, we can discuss this a little bit, I'm a big believer in that we're going to be using fossil fuels for a long time in the future. How do we use them more thoughtfully? How do we use them in ways that are good for the environment?
What we did in the state of Texas during the period of time that I was 14 years as the governor, we reduced our emissions substantially, and the US reduced its emissions substantially. All of us realize that was because of the great transition that we did away from our old inefficient power plants to cleaner-burning natural gas. So, Texas was the leader in this back through the years, will continue to be a leader in this. I would suggest, and we're going to talk a little bit, John, about small modular reactors and their role in the base load and the emission-free side of it as we go forward. We're going to talk about obviously the human flourishing side, and why fossil fuels are so important from that perspective. We're going to talk about the climate in general.
So, with that, I'm going to sit down, and I actually was thinking about... John, I'm going to ask you... John's a climatologist with the beloved Texas A&M. So, he is in a unique position to kind of start this off, our discussion here. He is an expert in climate data. And so, what I want to ask you, John Nielsen, is what do you think policymakers should be focusing on most so that they can seek to ensure energy security for citizens who are going to be making a positive impact on the climate?
So, I'm going to repeat that so we know exactly...As the climatologist in the state of Texas and an expert in climate data, what do you think policymakers, people like Wayne Christian, who's over at the railroad commission, people like Governor Abbott, the Secretary of Energy in the federal government, should be focusing on most as they seek to ensure energy security for citizens and as they make a positive impact on the climate?
Yeah, thanks for that question. It's a big challenge because we have a energy system in which if it wasn't changing the climate, it would be really great, all 10s across the board, but as it is, the more we emit in terms of greenhouse gasses, the warmer the climate gets, and eventually, the costs for that start adding up. So, there's goodwill to change our impact on the climate. The goodwill doesn't get you very far. It's really a political and economic issue to actually accomplish something like that.
So, when people ask me what the risk is for the state of Texas with climate change, one of the biggest risks is the policy of climate change, because so much of our economy in the state of Texas is based on fossil fuels and the wonderful resources we have. So, I think the key for us here is to invest in the technology that makes us leaders in the energy systems of the future, as the energy system transforms. That's multi-decade process, of course, but we've demonstrated a great capability to be energy leaders, in the world, perhaps, we can call that, and we need to stay in that position.
And of course, being self-sufficient with energy, self-sufficient within the state of Texas, within the United States, makes our energy system related to the things that happen in the rest of the world. You don't want to be dependent upon the goodwill of Russia, like much of Europe is discovering, that it's not necessarily something you want to rely on.
Hey, you just mentioned... and I'm going to get to you, Alex, I promise, later in a second, but you just said something that made me kind of take a little bit of a step back, because you said we're going to be... I think you're talking about the state of Texas here, but you were talking about that it's going to be decades before these changes occur, and we're a little ephemeral there about what we mean by changes. And so, when you say decades, that generally tells me at least 20 years. And we have an administration today that told us that in eight years, we're going to be substantially transitioning over to electric cars. What do you think about that?
Well, the end goal is to make the transition, but...
I get goals. I set goals for myself every day, and until Jesus comes back, I'm going to try to get better. But, I need to be a little bit realistic about it. Do you really think in eight years we can be where they want to be in the electric car field?
First, I don't think that we, as a nation, want to spend the money that would be required to make that transition so rapidly, because we've got... It's not just a matter of infrastructure, replacing the gas stations with electric charging systems. We've also got the problems of many people living in apartment complexes that wouldn't have access to a charging system as-is, and park in the street. So, it's a big interesting place. We've got a global target set by the United Nations, one and a half degrees Celsius warming, maybe two degrees if we can't do one and a half. But, the rate at which the transition would have to take place for that is a super big challenge.
And I really say it's not going to happen. But, the good news is, even if we don't meet those targets, anything we do to reduce climate change has a big impact on the impasse of climate change. And so, the cost benefit is always there.
Okay. So, Alex, sorry I kind of got that off, but I want to get back to: What do these policymakers need to be doing relative to energy security, was the question that I laid out there? And I want to give you the opportunity to pontificate a little bit.
So, I think that the way people are thinking about this is really problematic, and Governor Perry, it's interesting. Part of your question had this idea of how do we ensure energy security for citizens while making a positive impact on the climate. I want to focus on this idea of making a positive impact on the climate, because today, this is universally regarded as something like net-zero by 2050. And what that means is that making a positive impact on the climate means not impacting the climate. And when people are talking about climate data, it's usually about: are we making an impact or not, and how much?
But, I don't primarily look at climate from the perspective of it's bad for us to impact climate, we should do as little as possible, and certainly not we should do it at all costs, which is the kind of Biden 2050, 2030 type of agenda. My goal for climate and earth overall is I want it to be as livable for human beings as possible. And this is part of my work as a philosopher and energy expert, is when I look at the earth, my goal is advancing human flourishing on earth. So, I want the earth to be as livable for human beings as possible. I want it to be as abundant a place as possible, as safe a place as possible, and as opportunity-filled as possible.
And in terms of climate, I want it to be as safe for human beings as possible. So, when I look at climate data, I think the number one statistic we need to focus on is what's happening to deaths from climate, what's happening to climate-related disaster deaths? And there is a very clear trend, which is that they are way, way down. So, we have very good data that show that the rate of climate-related disaster death has gone down by 98% over the last century. And if you think about why this is, it has enormously to do with the benefits we get from fossil fuels, things like irrigation and crop transport that have driven drought-related deaths down by 99%, things like building sturdy buildings, things like heating and air conditioning. All of these things have made the climate unbelievably livable, and more broadly, the Earth unbelievably livable, and it's related to the cost-effective energy we get from fossil fuels.
So, I think from that perspective, we should very seriously consider at least the possibility, and I think it bears actually to be the case, that we should be increasing fossil fuel use so that we have a more livable world and a more livable climate. And the fact that we impact climate in terms of making it warmer, I definitely believe that, but one, that's not all bad itself, so we can't assume that's all good, but the benefits we get from fossil fuels including the climate benefits far outweigh that. And if you say, "Oh, we can rapidly replace with alternatives," that is a joke given that we have a world where 6 billion use an amount of energy we would consider totally unacceptable, including 3 billion people using less electricity than a typical American refrigerator. So, that these ideas of net-zero by 2050 or 2060 are consistent with energy abundance as much as possible, that is a total fallacy. Even by pursuing net-zero just to the point of slowing the growth of fossil fuels, we have caused a global energy crisis.
So, I think we should rethink this all from a human flourishing perspective. Our goal should not be to eliminate impact on earth or climate as an end in itself. It should be able to advance and flourish on Earth, and by that standard, we are actually in a climate renaissance, and fossil fuels are a climate hero. So, I brought you some controversy, but I don't think it's refutable.
This is one that I just ran across in the last couple of days, and it's the new IPCC data that just came out, and we, I think, what was it, two or three weeks ago, John? It came out, and there was all this hubbub....
I want to talk about, I think from time to time, we see government says x, and then it's like, "Okay, if the government says x, then that's the God-spoken truth," when the fact of the matter is, their modeling may be okay, but their projections have sure as hell been off in the last decade or so. Let's...
Yeah, get John to answer first, and then I'll match.
Have a go with the data and the IPCC and the...
In fact, we had a paper that came out last year about this time looking at the projections, and we're getting to the point beyond where we need to rely on climate models. We're relying on historical record now, and we've got a better understanding of the atmosphere and the climate system, that we know how sensitive it is to these changes in carbon dioxide and changes in other stuff in the atmosphere, and we're narrowing that gap. It's clearly not zero, but it's on the order of a couple of degrees, and it's consistent with what we've seen historically. So, we're [inaudible 00:17:01] the path. When we see projections, projections are exclusively based upon fossil fuel this, all that sort of thing, and some other things that affect the climate system like volcanoes and solar activity, which we can't predict, which could be a cooling mechanism or it could lead to even greater warming. Just that we haven't had any of that yet. What was your question?
Let me interject right there, because you said something that's really interesting. Things that we don't have any control of that have a massively different impact on the climate. And so, we're talking about at the government level, in IPCC and the folks that sign off on that, putting practices into places that can be literally stunning in their cost to the developed world, and at the same time, telling the undeveloped world, "Sorry, you're just going to have to live in your hut and cook in the warm of your house or your hut with the cow dung and the particulate matter that comes from that."
So, when you talk about, that there is these factors that we don't know or we don't have the control over that may have a completely... wipe out all of the progress that some would say could happen if we went full electric by 2030 or whatever. So, why are we racking ourselves up around the actual and creating conflict, when we really don't know whether or not these projections are right or not?
Well, yesterday, a lot of people had trouble getting here. We ended up staying in College Station until the thunderstorms came through. And we didn't know when the thunderstorms were going to come through, but we knew that if they did come through, there's going to be some severe weather. So, we say, look, it's the same thing with the climate system. We don't know exactly what's going to happen, but the stuff we know is concerning enough that we need to at least be cautious about how much climate change we allow to happen of our own volition.
I got an email a couple of weeks ago from I think it was a sixth grader doing a project, and she asked me two questions. She asked me, "How was the climate before 2000, and what's going to happen in the future?" And I didn't know how to say how good the climate was in 2000, but I thought about it, and realized, the best answer to how the climate was is, it had its problems, but we were all learning how to deal with it. The problem with the future climate is, we don't know what those problems are going to be that they'll be harder to deal with.
Now, if we're a more prosperous society, we're better able to deal with it. So, you really can't assign the climate target without knowing the trade-off of the cost of how to get there... but you have to take steps along the way to preserve your options.
Okay. Great. Alex? Back to the IPCC issue.
Yeah, I would love to comment on this. So, I read through this thing recently, because I was asked about it a lot, and it's really shocking to me how something that represents a lot of good research, that I think there's an enormous amount of really good research being done in climate, and as I said, I certainly do believe humans impact climate, and that has certain negatives to it, and it has certain positives as well, but it's just shocking to me that a document that's claiming to represent science just commits the most basic methodological errors. And the basic error: it basically does not carefully weigh benefits and side effects.
So, fossil fuels are the main source of climate impact. When you're considering fossil fuels, just like you're considering a prescription drug, you have to carefully weigh the benefits and the side effects. Climate impacts are a side effect of fossil fuel use. And yet, this entire paper did not mention at all any benefits of fossil fuels whatsoever. And it's supposed to be a synthesis. So, this is supposed to be giving us a big-picture perspective. This would be bad enough if fossil fuels were a prescription drug and you were only mentioning the negative side effects, but fossil fuels, because they allow us to protect ourselves from climate, they actually cure their own side effects. This is why we've had one degree C of warming, about two degrees Fahrenheit, and we've had a drastic decline in climate dangers.
I think the whole community of people interested in our environment need to take seriously that energy allows us to master our environment to be far better, including far safer from climate. And unfortunately, the modern climate discussion is full of fossil fuel benefit denial and what I call climate mastery denial. They accuse others of being climate change deniers. I don't think that's actually very common. I think most of us who support fossil fuels are climate change believers, so to speak, or climate impact believers, but we recognize the full power of fossil fuels benefits and climate mastery.
And I think the IPCC is really shameful in how it omits those, and unfortunately, it omits them in its thousands of pages of reports. If you go through those, they don't make one mention of the fact that climate-related disaster deaths are at all-time lows, and that fossil fuels have a key role. This is exactly like a polio report that didn't mention that polio deaths are hugely down and that vaccination and sanitation played a huge role. So, I think the whole thing needs to be rethought. As I said at the beginning, that's the controversial to say, but we need dramatically better thinking on this issue.
Thank you. John?
I take your point. I don't think the problem is the IPCC, per se, because it's called the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change rather than the Intergovernmental Panel on Fossil Fuels. On the other hand, I do take your point that the panel and the scientists, the report writers are looking at one aspect of the problem. And, global energy and its consequences are is much bigger than just climate change. And, what we do about climate change can't be taken in isolation from all the other good and bad aspects of various fossil fuel and other energy sources.
I really appreciate that. The thing I would say is, I wish they had thought about it as well as you are, although you and I have some differences for sure, because they make policy prescriptions. So, at the end of this, you can see, if you read through the report, it's just a very telegraphed thing that we need huge amounts of power and huge amounts of money for all of our favorite people to stop the end of the world. That's the narrative of it, or our world's going to be unlivable. But it all manifests in dramatic and I would say draconian, even totalitarian, policy changes. So, whenever you're considering policy and you're invoking science, you always need to consider the full context of relevant factors. So, if they were purely reporting on the state of climate science, like they are supposedly trying to do in Working Group 1 or something, that's one thing, but once they're doing a synthesis of policy recommendations, I think all of my criticisms stand.
But they don't make policy recommendations. They do it in press releases, the leaders of the IPCC, but the scientists writing the reports are giving the policy options.
Yep. Let me change direction here just a second, and thank you for both of you jumping in on that last issue. But I want to talk about some of the technologies that are out there today, whether it's hydrogen, whether it's advanced nuclear reactors, CCUS. Just both of you take a couple of minutes max and talk about, what do you see as some of the technologies that are out there? Because frankly, innovation... One of the great things about America, and I think what really may make us different than any other country in the world, is that when we've seen challenges, when we've had problems, we innovate. And that's one of the things that I hope government will respect and not disincentivize the innovators in our country to go find some of these new technologies that can be very, very helpful. So, have a run at that.
Yes, sir. The challenge with the technologies in place, we're getting, anywhere, wind and solar are competitive in nominal cost, but they're nowhere near... we need massive amounts of energy storage to actually be able to replace that, and there's supply chain issues with it and so forth. It doesn't mean they're not solving it. We've solved a lot of problems with fossil fuels over the years as well. So, we can get there.
So, I think the focus, since we have possibilities of intermittent prior generations that are now technologically feasible, we need the capacity for load balancing and so forth. I think nuclear is probably a pretty important component of that. I haven't seen that that area of technology is moving fast enough to really scale. Nuclear's sort of challenging in the sense of it's a fast curve of the technology if you actually start making the victories of getting there. And there are lots of steps in place that could get us there.
Okay. As a matter of fact, where's Paul Dabbar, Dr. Dabbar? Where are you, Paul? I know you're back in here. What time is your panel on small monitor reactors?
Dr. Paul Dabbar:
In about two hours.
In about an hour?
Two hours. If you get a chance, Paul Dabbar... Paul was the assistant secretary for science at DOE, and he's going to be doing a panel on small monitor reactors, and I happen to agree with John that I think the real future in the energy space long-term is going to be, once we, whatever, 40, 50 years down the road, when our fossil fuels start maybe... We had peak coal back in 2000, right? Oh, that's right.
And in 1890 and in 1870.
Yeah, I'd love to comment on alternatives, because I think there is a certain perspective that if you're... I have an I Love Fossil Fuels pin. By the way, I hope some of you take one. They're at that black table behind in the middle. I have enough for everyone. For whatever reason, the organizers didn't want me to hand them out, shockingly, but you guys can have them and take them. But I love fossil fuels, but it's because I love human flourishing and because I want more of it, and because I love energy abundance.
And so, for me, the prospect of cost-effective alternatives is enormously exciting and thrilling even first and foremost because we have a world that's just totally underpowered. That's my number one energy priority, is just more energy to more people in an energy impoverished world. I think the key to energy abundance is very simple. Unfortunately, it's not a word that people like to hear a lot in this context. It's the F word, which is freedom. What we really need for cost-effective alternatives to emerge is freedom, including the freedom to develop.
So, we have an incredibly anti-development government today based on the belief that human impact is bad. This is unfortunately core to the modern green movement. So, we need to embrace development so that we can develop any technology, and then we need the freedom to compete and the freedom to innovate and all sorts of different things. And I think in nuclear, we need to decriminalize nuclear. We need radical, radical reform. Something like deep geothermal, the freedom to develop it is crucial. We need more solar and wind. The problem with solar and wind are not inherently, they should never be used or something, but right now, they get incredible preferences, including they have the right to sell unreliable electricity for the same price, and with subsidies for a higher price, than reliable electricity.
So, I'm for grid reform, where we have real markets, the freest thing we could have, where we have technology-neutral reliability standards and generators can use whatever combination of inputs they want, but you have to deliver reliable electricity. I think that is the key. So, I want to see all of these things proliferate if they're cost-effective. If you're interested in learning more, next to those pins, there's just a form where you can sign up for my mailing list and learn about energy freedom, or you can just send me an email directly at email@example.com, subject Earthx.
Hey, let me see that book [Fossil Future] there. You've got one in your hand up there. And I'm not... Yeah, I am. I'm hawking this. Listen, I told you when I started my remarks, I'm interested in the truth. I think this book is full of the truth. And one of the reasons I asked Alex to come be a part of this, one of the reasons, I asked John to come and be a part of this, is to talk about the truth. Because oftentimes in the world we live in today, you may hear a little bit of the truth over here, you may hear a little bit of the truth over there, but the fact is, we don't think enough on our own. And reading this book, it gives you the opportunity to be exposed to what I consider to be the truth.
And I want to wrap up with this. In 2000, I was sworn in as the governor of the state of Texas on the 21st day of December of 2000. And for the next 14 plus years, I got to do the greatest job in the world, the most intriguing job in the world, to be the governor of, at that time, the 10th largest economy in the world. And one of the things that I ran into, Alex, in the early 2000s, is we started having some challenges with our energy. Natural gas was going to $13 of MCF. There was a man who was traveling around the country, a fabulous, wonderful man who was giving a good speech called Peak Oil. And we had found all of the fossil fuels, and this was the decline curve, and that's what was going to go on.
And we started looking at alternatives. Wind, and I know there's a table of wind energy folks back there, wind was one of the alternatives that we found. Solar wasn't even on the radar screen because the technology wasn't there and the cost was prohibitive anyway. So, we started making a big transition to wind in this state as a part of our portfolio, realizing that the bulk of it was going to be fossil fuel driven and natural gas in particular, as well as our nuclear plants in the state.
So, we went forward, and I thought, "Lord, let us just get to 15% of our dispatchable energy as renewables." And it would be really a good thing for us to have that diversity, all of the above energy types. And we did that. We created the PREZ lines to bring the energy from out in the panhandle back to where the people live in the triangle from Dallas to San Antonio, over to Houston, back up there. 85% of our population is either inside or contiguous to that triangle. So, bringing that power back through the PREZ lines, and the state subsidized and they built that line.
But here's the story going forward. Somewhere along the way... and I'm not being critical here, I'm just trying to be realistic and truthful. Somewhere along the way, we took our eye off of the ball. And with the federal subsidies that are going on with wind and solar now, we've seen these huge projects being built in the state of Texas. The end of this year, at the end of 2023, the state of Texas, a state that two years ago almost lost its grid because we had so much renewable energy that was not being able to put power into the grid, by the end of this year, 46% of the dispatchable energy in Texas is going to be renewable.
Now, I will suggest to you that's a problem. There may be folks that say, "Oh, that's the most wonderful thing. You're headed in the right direction." But let me tell you, I would bet my life on approaching 50% of your grid as renewable. So, we need to be thinking about how do we make sure that our base load is capable to be able to handle whatever the stress and the strain that gets on that grid is. And I know we're out of time, but I want John and Alex to just take a minute each and just say, what would you advise the people of the state of Texas to do short-term and long-term relative to making sure that the lights come on when you flip that switch in Dallas, Texas?
Well, I think on the short-term, basically from an energy mix perspective, it's not possible to use all the resources all the time. And, we've taken steps within the state to change the economic incentives so that we can actually guarantee the availability of base load power when the weather's not cooperating to allow wind and solar power to be generated. But we always have to keep that capability in place. So, you said that we have wind and solar generating power, and those plants have gone live, but we have to make it economically viable for those energy operators to keep that capacity and reserve available to use. At least that's the short-term answer. I'm going to let Alex do the long-term.
Texas... and I live in California. We're playing reliability chicken. So, basically, we're trying to have as much unreliable generation as we can, and then economize by not only taking subsidies from the rest of the country, but shutting down as many reliable power plants as possible and then hoping the sun shines enough, the wind blows enough, it doesn't get too hot and it doesn't get too cold. This is a dangerous game that's being played around the country.
I think the solution, as I said before, is universal technology-neutral reliability standards. I'm fortunate enough to work with 200 major offices, governors, senators, and US Congress offices, and I'm ready to help for free, Texas. I've actually written up draft legislation on this. I think it's really important to have a grid where every cost-effective alternative and regular form of energy can be successful. But the direction [today] is really, really bad. I know you're trying to take some Band-Aid measures, but I think you really want to think about how do we create an actually fair market where you get rewarded for being reliable, versus just this random lobbying by all these out-of-state people and all these in-state people. I think right now, it's just a tragedy in terms of the Texas grid. So, you guys have the opportunity to be the best grid in the country. You should take advantage of it.
Yeah. Great. Well, listen, let me wrap up by saying, again, to Trammell and his organization, thank you. Having as many people, having as many eyeballs on Dallas, Texas, today as we have is a great tribute. I'm proud of what the state has done over the course of the last two decades from the standpoint of becoming absolutely the place where people want to live. We have recruited from across the globe, literally John, people who they see this state, they still believe there's a place that you can come and risk your capital and have a chance to have a return on your investment.
I tell folks on a regular basis that governing is really not that difficult. There's four things you've got to get right: don't over-tax, don't over-regulate, don't over-litigate, and have a skilled workforce, which basically means count on your public schools. Those are the four things. And then, get out of the way and allow the private sector to do what the private sector does best. And, I wish our friends in Washington DC would do a little bit more of that like we do it here in Texas.
But anyway, to Alex, I want to say thank you for being here today. John, thank you. These are two great Americans who are making a real difference for all of us, so why don't you thank them for giving their time and their expertise?
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PS Check out this video a friend of mine made of my adventures at Earthx and at the Fossil Fueled event last week.
That Earth Day event seems like a relatively civil conversation on the subject of climate change. Nice to see. I see two challenges to the typical U.S. green climate viewpoint, and one easy solution. The challenges are (1) we simply can't afford to destroy our economy via debt-financed unproductive green investments, because we would all then find ourselves with no good options with respect to the climate or even our standard of living, as Alex infers. And (2) Professor Nielsen-Gammon's remark notwithstanding ("anything we can do to reduce climate change has a big impact on the impasse of climate change..."), energy production in Asia and Africa are dwarfing the efforts of the West to reduce climate emissions, and they are just beginning. Global warming is, ah, global, after all.
The solution? Nuclear, like SMR's and other emerging technologies. They are green and safe, and could be made inexpensive if the political will existed. They have far less impact on the environment than solar and wind solutions. And no, they can't be turned into weapons. Their problem is that they don't enable Washington to grift billions of green energy subsidies to donors, friends and family members.
Fossil fuels are great, but they are much more limited than the industry cares to admit. Just yesterday, Reuters reported that the Gulf of Mexico will peak by 2025 . Last month, WSJ reported that oil from fracking is likely to peak on a similar timeline . It is true that we have decades of fossil fuels remaining, but what this statement obscures is the reality that fossil fuels will become increasingly scarce and expensive throughout this entire period. That's a very inconvenient coefficient when you're trying to power continuous growth and human flourishing around the world.
Climate mitigation technologies are woefully inadequate, and have no real promise to deliver meaningful changes. The world's largest carbon capture facility is able to remove 0.0001% of our annual carbon emissions each year . Meanwhile, climate change is accelerating, occurring at least twice as fast today as in 1997 . The pace will only increase as we trigger new tipping points and create new feedback loops. It is impossible to imagine how these technologies would keep pace with exponentially rising emissions.
And emissions will rise exponentially, as standards of living improve around the world, as cities demand more and better climate mitigation technologies, as the growth economy trudges onward and upwards. The Earthx forum touches on "clean" fossil fuels, but this is a myth promulgated by fossil fuel lobbyists. Natural gas is cleaner when burned, but it's every bit as dirty at the site of extraction. There is no solution except to reduce consumption.
Fossil fuels have an essential role in the future of human civilization, but the laissez-faire approach of using these resources to generate maximum short-term profits is suicidal. Our energy future must be built with existing fossil infrastructure and resources. Given that these resources are nearing peak production, they must be applied judiciously towards an abundant energy future.