Alex Epstein is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. Named “most original thinker of 2014” by The McLaughlin Group, Epstein advocates the use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas—and he does so not merely on practical grounds, but also on moral grounds. With his unique, pro-human approach to the subject, Epstein is changing the way the world thinks about energy. I had the pleasure of chatting with him recently about how he does what he does so well, and what advice he has for others who want to achieve similar success. —Craig Biddle
Craig Biddle: Thank you so much, Alex, for taking time to chat with me about your work and your approach to improving the world. I know I speak for many when I say that I can hardly wait to hear your thoughts on how you’ve done all that you have in the past few years.
Alex Epstein: Thanks for inviting me to share my ideas and experiences with the TOS audience.
Biddle: Your success in spreading the moral case for industrial progress has been truly astonishing. From the launch of your Center for Industrial Progress (CIP), to the publication of your best-selling book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, to your eye-opening debates with various environmentalists, to your recent testimony before the U.S. Senate on the devastating effects of environmentalist policies on the lives of human beings—you’ve managed to reach more minds with your ideas than anyone would have imagined possible just a few years ago.
Not only are you reaching and changing minds about the vital importance of fossil fuels and industrial progress; you’re also inspiring like-minded people who want to spread rational ideas in other areas. The potential here is huge. If other activists were to replicate your methods toward defending genetically modified organisms (GMOs), free-market banking, free-market health care, freedom of speech, proper foreign policy, and so on, we would soon be living in a profoundly better world. So I’d like to pick your brain about what you’ve done, how you’ve been so successful, and what advice you have for others who’d like to follow suit.
Epstein: I’m glad you made the point about applying what I’ve done to other fields. Almost as important to me as impacting my field of focus, energy and industrial progress, is identifying radically better methods by which advocates of reason, individualism, and liberty can win others over to their cause. One of the purposes of my organization from the beginning was to be a prototype that could be replicated in other fields.
Biddle: Before we turn to that prototype and the details of your approach, let me ask what inspired you to get into this unique business in the first place. How did you become so passionate about industrial progress and defending those who create it? How did this all get started?
Epstein: As long as I can remember, . . .