Data Show Oil and Gas Have Greatly Benefited Humanity

Opponents of the oil and natural gas industry have stepped up their hyperbolic rhetoric of late. One prominent “Keep It In the Ground” media figure has gone so far as to claim the industry will “fatally injure the whole freaking planet,” while the Natural Resources Defense Council has claimed fossil fuels have “exacted an enormous toll on humanity.”

The latest real-world data tell a far different tale, showing that global extreme poverty has declined dramatically and life expectancy has more than doubled as use of oil and natural gas have skyrocketed over the past 100-plus years.

As the above IPRB charts show, the latest World Bank data show that the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has declined from more than 80 percent in the late 1800s to less than 10 percent in 2015 – the lowest percentage on record. At the same time, oil and natural gas consumption has gone from almost nothing to being the primary energy source in the world (increasing 11,472 percent, to be specific). Not coincidentally, the average global life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900.

It is not difficult to surmise why extreme poverty has declined and life expectancy has increased at the same time that oil and natural gas use has skyrocketed.

Extreme poverty can be traced to lack of access to modern energy – most notably electricity – which most of us take for granted. Fossil fuels not only provide electricity, they provide critical home heating and cooling, clean water, food production and transportation. These modern conveniences have improved the quality of life in the United States and other fortunate developed countries, leading directly to increased economic opportunity, a better quality of life and longer lives, in general.

Perhaps most importantly, countless modern healthcare technologies and devices – and access to quality medical care – would not be possible without oil and natural gas.

These are just a few facts we should keep in mind when key political figures claim, “I guarantee you we’re gonna end fossil fuel.”