Why not buy out the coal industry?

Burton Richter a Nobel Laureate in physics has an interesting idea to stop the use of coal

There is no excuse for the continued use of coal to generate electricity that costs too much and is a health hazard to everyone who lives anywhere near a coal-fired power plant. About 137,000 people worked in the coal industry last year — from miners to executives, according to the Labor Department. You could pension them all off with $50,000 per year tax-free, at a cost of about $6.8 billion per year [A National Academy of Sciences 2010 study estimated that the non-climate costs from coal-fired power plant emissions in 2005 cost about $62 billion], save the country a large amount of money, protect our people from much damage to their health and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming our planet.

I am sure there are plenty of reasons why this wont work but the mere fact that it isn’t immediately dismissible gives you an idea of how far off base the coal industry really is.

(h/t David Appell)

4 thoughts on “Why not buy out the coal industry?

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    1. Right, but as long as the profits are less that $62 billion per year then we would still come out ahead. Actually since the 62 billion doesn’t include climate related costs then we would still likely come up ahead even if profits were higher.

  1. Wouldn’t you also have to buy out all of the coal fired power plants and their employees? What about all the contractors employed by these industries – power generation and mining? Where would the electricity come from to replace the electricity provided by these coal fired plants? One of the most absurd ideas I’ve ever heard. We don’t have the electric capacity in nuclear, solar, hydro, combined cycle, etc to replace the missing coal fired plants. Are you going to ration electricity? Until you wean the country from its electricity usage, its a mute point.

    1. I think if the coal industry hadn’t been so vicious about all of this, buying them out would be on the table. Of course, the history of the coal interests is an especially unsavory one in the history of American capital, so nobody should be too surprised that the culture remains antisocial. But as it stands, it’s hard to imagine convincing the public, once they understand what these interests have done to us, to contemplate rewarding them.

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