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Climate change

Buy a coal mine to save the planet

A colliery in West Virginia. Getty Images

Here’s a thought, says Tim Harford in The Financial Times: environmentalists should buy more coal mines. A colliery in West Virginia has reserves that could belch out about 20 million tons of carbon dioxide – and it’s on the market for just $8m. Snapping that up and keeping the coal in the ground is “an insanely good deal” for anyone serious about fighting climate change. Likewise, if you drive, but only a little, there’s much to be said for buying an ageing gas-guzzler. “Better for a thirsty old car to do 1,000 miles a year in your hands than 10,000 miles a year in someone else’s.”

Reverse logic might also have resolved the “brief, inglorious UK fuel shortage” a few weeks ago. People were rushing to refuel in case the pumps ran dry, so some forecourts imposed a limit of, say, £25. Yet this maximum purchase level merely encouraged more visits and more queues. Instead, petrol stations should have imposed a minimum purchase level whereby those with tanks more than a quarter full couldn’t fill them up. This would have meant that only people who really needed to refuel would have gone to petrol stations. The queues would have disappeared, along with the self-fulfilling shortage. We economists love this sort of thing. “Let the psychologists keep their reverse psychology; we’ll enjoy our reverse logic.” 

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