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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Peak coal

Finite sources of fossil fuels will soon run out, and unless we drastically change our consumption patterns, we are doomed to re-live the Middle Ages. Al Gore in 2009? No - William Stanley Jevons, Professor of Political Economy at University College London, in 1865.The Times of London has the story:
In his work of 1865, The Coal Question, the distinguished economist cautioned that we had become wholly dependent on the finite resource of coal. Indeed, some calculations - based on the increasing rate of extraction and the geological analysis of how much coal remained underground - suggested that Britain could run out by 1900.

At this point, Jevons maintained, the economy would literally run out of steam, reducing Britons to a medieval standard of living. The cost of shipping coal from elsewhere in the world would be prohibitive and, in any case, the leading geologists calculated that other countries would quickly exhaust their stocks as well.

“I draw the conclusion that I think anyone would draw,” wrote Jevons, “that we cannot long maintain our present rate of increase of consumption.” John Stuart Mill agreed, announcing that his “treatment of the subject was almost exhaustive”. William Ewart Gladstone was so impressed that he devoted a large section of his famous Budget Speech of 1866 to the findings of Jevons.

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