From the carbohydrate to the hydrocarbon age

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Mark Mathis spent three years making the movie spOILed and two years taking it around the country to show it nearly 200 times in theaters. He was trying to undo the damage of George Bush’s unfortunate comment that America was addicted to oil. He was also faced with the damage that my colleague and mentor M.King Hubert of the US Geological Survey had done by creating the term Peak OIL in 1967.

The film unfortunately included lengthy interviews with prominent supposed experts who agreed with Hubert. He was a talented engineer, lacking recognition of man’s capabilities to continue to enhance his or her every endeavor. I was fortunate to learn that from another colleague, the brilliant Julian Simon who humbled doomsayer Paul Ehlich with a winning bet that nearly all mineral resources would become less expensive with time as exploration and refining methods improved.

As a result of that film, Mark was invited to speak about the importance of oil at dozens of conferences. (He has also testified before the US Congress and has spoken internationally as far away as Saudi Arabia.) The forces against him, however, were a formidable adversary. The anti-fossil fuel groups with all but unlimited available funds and near total ownership of the mainstream media limited the success of his first documentary film.

But by then his obsession with oil and the advent of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling lead Mark Mathis to produce a second film, FRACTURED in 2016. That film, in this author’s opinion, is the finest educational documentary available in the energy field.

Previously, the film explains, we divided man’s time on earth into ages, the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. However, we were also always in the carbohydrate age. It was primarily the food we grew or animals we captured that produced the energy that allowed us to do work. We also burned wood to make chemical energy. Later, exploiting hydrocarbon energy was the game-changer for advancing man’s capabilities 100-fold. So, it can certainly be said that we are now in the Hydrocarbon Age. An age the Left is trying tirelessly to end by taking us back to sailing on the wind and heating only with the sun.

We went from discovering oil in the 1850s to using it to land on the moon 100 years later. We no longer had to spend most of our time surviving. Now we could spend it thinking, innovating, and creating. It was hydrocarbon energy that allowed us to do those things. Just realize that a gallon of gasoline has the energy equivalent of 8 days of manual labor. It is a super-condensed energy source we use to replace our physical limitations. It is how we have built society and its magnificent structures.

Only two centuries ago most people lived short, difficult lives in poverty. Only a very small percent lived remotely close to the enjoyable life we lead today. Hydrocarbon energy has been the most egalitarian creation humankind has ever experienced, improving the quality of life for the majority of the world’s population. A king 300 years ago would have envied the capabilities of men and women on the lowest economic rung of any developed nation. Yet, still a billion people on our planet live without electricity. The Left wants to keep it that way by withholding the use of natural gas, oil, and coal from those who remain without it. Without hydrocarbon energy most people remain poor.

Once people were able to move quickly, frequently, and inexpensively they were able to advance themselves. Transportation, driven by hydrocarbons, led to increased education and employment opportunities.

Since the Hydrocarbon Era has begun the infant and maternal mortality rate has plunged. Dying at birth is almost unheard of today.

Per capita incomes have increase seven-fold just since 1900. Drought related deaths have plunged. Dying at 30 years old was an expectation, now living past 75 is an expectation. The list goes on and on and on. We are living better, longer, much safer, and more comfortably.

The Left has this idea of better times before hydrocarbon energy. It is a ridiculous fantasy. It is a dangerous fantasy. The number one tool of a doctor in the civil war was a saw. The number one tool of dentists was a pair of pliers. These are the realities that we forget about when humans lived in that carbohydrate age. Our view of nature is distorted because of the comfort afforded us by fossil fuels. If we could live the life of the typical person of 1800 for only a week, virtually all of us would want to get back to the here and now pretty fast.

When people talk about nature, they call it Mother Nature. That gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling about the nature around us. Mother is caring, nurturing, wonderful, one of the most positively charged words in our language. Nothing could be further from the truth. Blizzards, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, tsunamis, avalanches, disease, and wild animals… these are just some of the ways that nature can kill you. Mother is not the right term to describe nature. The right color is not green it is red with blood! Nature is vicious. It is mean. Nature wants you dead. It wants to eat you, make you sick, or boil or freeze you. But that doesn’t happen much anymore because we use energy to protect ourselves from nature’s wrath. Maybe we best call it Mother-in-law nature and it would feel less warm and fuzzy.

The energy bubble we live in continually protects us from nature, but it becomes invisible to us. We don’t appreciate it because most of us always have it. Unless the current political administration succeeds in depriving us of the energy that creates our protective bubble, we will continue to have it and hopefully appreciate it better than most do today.

NOTE: Portions of this essay were excerpted from a transcript of the movie FRACTURED with permission of its producer Mark Mathis. The movie is available at It could prove to be the most enlightening 90 minutes you could spend in front of a computer screen.

  • CFACT Senior Science Analyst Jay Lehr has authored more than 1,000 magazine and journal articles and 36 books. Jay’s new book A Hitchhikers Journey Through Climate Change written with Teri Ciccone is now available on Kindle and Amazon.

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