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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Nothing new under the sun?

The great economist William Jevons wrote in 1865 about the The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal-Mines:
DAY by day it becomes more evident that the Coal we happily possess in excellent quality and abundance is the mainspring of modern material civilization. As the source of fire, it is the source at once of mechanical motion and of chemical change. Accordingly it is the chief agent in almost every improvement or discovery in the arts which the present age brings forth. It is to us indispensable for domestic purposes, and it has of late years been found to yield a series of organic substances, which puzzle us by their complexity, please us by their beautiful colours, and serve us by their various utility.

It turns out they are still mining coal in Britain, and we will still be drilling for oil in 2104. Whenever the malthusians get on the horse, just remind them that they are likely wrong, and if they are right we are all dead anyways.

Although, according to the blog, coal does have its benefits but it also has some negative externalities. Coalminers work in a dangerous environment where they are constantly breathing in fumes and risking their lives. Taking coal from the natural environment could cause a disruption in the ecosystem. If coal is not mined properly or under the right conditions then the long run costs will probably outweigh the short term benefits.
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