Fossil fuels don’t just make our lives more comfortable and convenient; fossil fuels save lives. That may seem like a bold statement, especially with so many environmentalists advocating that we dramatically and quickly reduce our use of fossil fuels.
But consider: If a hurricane or tornado cuts power to hospitals and grocery stores, it’s diesel- and gasoline-powered generators that will prevent medicines and food from going bad and keep operating rooms well-lit. If your home catches fire, diesel-powered fire trucks and ambulances respond. In many regions of the world – including some places in the U.S.– fossil fuels power desalination plants that turn seawater into fresh water for crops, livestock and people.
In addition to saving lives, consider how fossil fuels make modern life possible: growing the food that feeds the world, manufacturing the textiles that clothe us and the materials that house us, and moving these building blocks of life to where they’re most needed. Transportation over long distances – by air, rail, road and water – makes commerce and trade economically feasible for billions of people.
There is no energy source other than fossil fuels that can accomplish these things on the scale needed to meet our needs – not currently, and not even on the horizon. All these activities that require energy also result in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. In fact, CO2 emissions are almost synonymous with energy use.
Carbon emissions, prosperity and poverty reduction: From 1990 through 2011,* world gross domestic product (GDP) in current dollars increased from about $23 trillion to over $72 trillion. During this time, global CO2 emissions increased from about 23 gigatons per year to over 34 gigatons per year. In short, for every additional metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions, global GDP increased by about $4,400.
During this same period – 1990 through 2011 – as GDP and CO2 emissions rose, the world poverty rate went from about 36 percent to about 14 percent. That’s hundreds of millions of lives made better in innumerable ways.
So when some environmentalists or politicians tell us we have to dramatically reduce our use of fossil fuels, they are telling us we have to sacrifice not just comfort and convenience, but also sacrifice prosperity, poverty reduction and the many other benefits that come from using fossil fuel energy – better health, longer lifespans, safer homes, lifesaving capabilities and much more.
There are those who refer to the “social cost of carbon.” But look around you, and you’ll see the social benefits of carbon. These benefits are not only everywhere; they are immediate. They make lives better today. They save lives today. If human life is a priority – and we believe it is the priority – then these benefits are paramount. As we work to continually improve our health, safety and environmental performance, the social benefits of carbon continue to be more widespread, and at less cost than ever before.
Marathon Petroleum Corporation is proud to make people’s lives better through the fuels and other products we manufacture, and by adhering to the values we have outlined in our Citizenship Report. We are proud to contribute to the social benefits that fossil fuels make possible.