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Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein (A Book Summary)

Alex Epstein Clean Energy Moral Case for Fossil Fuels


(NOTE: The following is one tale from the full book summary. Sign up today and get the whole summary)

A Difficult Truth

Lesson: Every form of energy, every human action, has by-products and risks.


Journal Entry: September 14th, 2011


“This swamp has killed my neighbors,” the elderly man spoke in soft tones, but his anger seeped through clenched teeth. “It makes our teeth fall out and our hair turn white before our time. Children have drowned. . . drowned in that sludge.” The 74 year old farmer grimaces at the memory. The image of the thick black sludge filling the lungs of a child as it struggles to escape makes Yon Man Jia Hong clench his fists. “People wear masks or they get sick. My village Dalahai suffers because young officials want more money.”

I could see the despair and bitterness as he tightened his lips. In all respects, Yon and his friend Su Bairen reflected the Zen-like nature one might expect from a Chinese farmer. But when they came to the massive toxic lake near their village, they turned into resentful men. Angry men without recourse.

 I could not imagine how one survived in this village, nor the nearby city of Batou. The factory has a constant flow of chemical runoff that creates a hissing cauldron of chemicals. Apparently, the factory dumps seven million tons a year of the mined mineral, but only after dousing it in acid and chemicals and then processing it through red-hot furnaces. This ensures the factory can extract the material it wants.


Journal Entry: September 15, 2011


Today I made it to the lake. All round it were patrols shooing people away. My team and I snuck around them. There are no signposts or even paved roads that lead to the factory. We had to climb sand dunes to reach its brim.

Apocalyptic was the word that popped into my mind upon seeing the lake for the first time. I was sick for hours afterward. My stomach lurched into my throat. I could not see straight.

As a child I read about these secret toxic dumps where some Montgomery Burns character was dumping all the sludge and turning fish into 3-eyes monsters or turtles into fighting ninjas, but this was a real life secret toxic waste dump site. It had killed all the surrounding farmland. Cancer rates in Batou, China were skyrocketing.

I have to admit my first reaction was elation at discovering this. I would be the first to report on it. This would make my career. A real secret toxic waste. Then I remembered Yon. So many of his friends suffered from severe skin and respiratory diseases. They were dying. Their livelihood was perishing. This is why I had become a journalist.



Journal Entry: September, 16 2011


This story will never sell.

Today, I posed as a buyer of the rare earth mineral that this factory mines and distills. I was shocked to discover what it was used for. I have pictures of the lake that provide sufficient evidence of the damage it causes, and now even pictures of the atrocious working conditions within the factory. The workers there are transporting 1000 degree molten sludge wearing cotton gloves, shirt and pants.

But I know this is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to get out into the public. People won’t want to hear what this mineral is used for. Not only used for, but is an essential ingredient in. Entire political platforms are built on this product. People have put their hope into it. Our entire society is being built on the belief that this product will save our children and their children from environmental disaster. Yet the mineral needed for it is causing the most disgusting, stomach lurching, peasant murdering environment-destroying process I have ever seen or heard about. 

All of this mining and toxicity is needed to create a rare-earth mineral absolutely essential in the creation of a so-called clean energy: A Wind Mill Turbine.


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