Thursday, October 27, 2005


Environmentalism is wonderful until it impinges on my electricity bill. This sort of expedient thinking is behind the rage over gasoline prices in the US and similar unhappiness over the cost of natural gas for heating. Self-interest has a habit of trumping larger community principles. That is why I find this story amusing. Natural gas was supposed to replace coal in pursuit of cleaner air and less acid rain. That was before the price of natural gas skyrocketed.

But, there is more to the story. Years ago when I was a reporter, I was assured that America had enough natural gas for 1000 years to heat homes. That was before massive amounts were burned in utility boilers to generate electricity. The natural gas bubble sooned turned into a natural gas shortage. So, pursuit of environmentalism created the problem that coal is now going to solve.

The lesson here is that one should look behind principles to see what they really mean before one signs on to supporting them. It is easy to support a cleaner, healthier environment. It is not so easy to face furious householders who demand lower electricity prices.

Coal is making a comeback in America as it is elsewhere. That wasn't supposed to happen.


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