The Immorality Argument

The latest mantra from the “Keep it in the Ground” crowd is, “If it’s immoral to damage the environment, then it’s immoral to invest in companies that damage the environment—we need to Keep It in the Ground.” It’s catchy, right? Almost intuitive. Too bad it’s a ridiculous argument.

The first big flaw is that the vast majority of emissions comes from the consumption—not the extraction—of oil and natural gas. So the argument would then go, “If it’s immoral to damage the environment, then no one should use fossil fuels.”

Which is where the second big flaw comes into play. Because it assumes a single metric of morality. Oil and gas are used to provide affordable heat and electricity around the world. The petrochemicals derived from them make modern medicines, cell phones, seat belts, sanitary food packaging, and car seats, to name but a few of literally millions of products that enrich our lives. Are these products—that save millions (if not billions) of lives a year—immoral?

There are currently no replacements for the affordability and versatility of fossil fuels. Even solar panels and wind turbines are made from them.

So anyone urging you to “divest” from fossil fuels and just “Keep It in the Ground” are either ignorant or misleading you to further their own extremist goals. Regardless, morality has nothing to do with it.