Buy (or Rent) Coal! The Coasean Climate Change Policy

Since climate change and what to do about it are in the news it’s time to re-up an underrated idea, buy coal! Carbon taxes increase the price of carbon and induce economic and technological substitution towards lower-carbon sources of fuel in the countries that adopt them. As carbon-tax countries reduce fuel use, however, non carbon-tax countries see the price of their fuel decline. Thus, unless all countries join the tax-coalition, there is leakage. Supply-side policies are an alternative to demand supply policies. The United States, for example, could buy out and close coal mines, including giving the workers substantial retirement/reallocation bonuses, thus reducing the world supply of coal which is still the largest source of C02 emissions.

You can get rich by hitting an oil gusher, but coal is relatively expensive to mine and to transport. Thus, it’s relatively cheap to buy out coal mines because you aren’t buying the coal, you’re buying the right to leave the coal in the ground. Cutting the supply of coal raises its price which will increase the quantity supplied in other countries. Thus, there is the potential for supply leakage as well as demand leakage. It’s probably easier to use more coal when the price of coal falls (electricity, for example, can be generated in a variety of ways) than it is to mine more coal when the price rises. In other words, the elasticity of the demand for coal is greater than the elasticity of supply so supply leakage is probably less than demand leakage. Furthermore, supply leakage can be handled by buying out supply in the non-coalition countries. As Noah Smith pointed out with the graph at right (data) US CO2 emissions are actually falling while the rest of the world keeps rising (as they catch up in per-capita terms) so addressing the CO2 emissions problem requires bringing countries like China and India on board.

Coal use in China is very high and increasing. India has been canceling coal plants as solar becomes cheaper but coal is still by far the largest source of power in India. Thus, there is plenty of opportunity to buy out, high-cost coal mines in China and India.

It might seem odd to buy Chinese and Indian coal mines but we buy Chinese and Indian labor, why not a coal mine? Moreover, it’s important to understand that the policy is to buy only up to the point that it benefits both parties. Buying coal isn’t foreign aid, it’s a pollution reduction plan just like a carbon tax or R&D investment and because we can buy barely-profitable coal mines and avoid the problem of leakage this is a low-cost method to reduce CO2 emissions.

Collier and Venables worry that foreign voters won’t like foreign investors buying up coal mines, although foreign investment is hardly uncommon and foreigners do protect rainforests by buying the right to cut them down. In any case, Collier and Venables suggest a cap-extract and trade program. Under cap-extract there is a cap on global extractions of carbon (not use) but rights to extract can be traded. Since it’s more valuable to extract say oil than coal what this would mean is that payments would flow from mostly developed countries to developing countries which makes it clear that we are all in the boat together.

Even without a cap-extract and trade program, however, there are other factors that make buying coal attractive to people in selling countries, namely coal is killing them even putting aside the dangers of climate change.

NYTimes: Burning coal has the worst health impact of any source of air pollution in China and caused 366,000 premature deaths in 2013, Chinese and American researchers said on Thursday.

Coal is responsible for about 40 percent of the deadly fine particulate matter known as PM 2.5 in China’s atmosphere, according to a study the researchers released in Beijing.

India’s air quality is even worse than China’s and is responsible for some 1.2 million early deaths annually. A 25% cut in pollution in India could increase life-expectancy by 1.3 years and in some highly polluted cities such as Delhi by 2.8 years. Not all pollution comes from coal but a substantial amount does.

Buyers might worry that a foreign government will take their money and later renege on the deal. There are lots of ways to deal with this problem–turn the coal fields into a national park, for example, or develop them for housing. But let’s turn a problem into a solution. Instead of buying coal, we could rent it. In other words, buy the right to delay mining the coal for say 10 years. Given the rate of improvement in solar, many coal plants will be uneconomic in 10 years and given the rate of improvement in living standards and the consequent increased demand for clean air, many coal plants in India and China could well be unpolitical in 10 years. Thus, it is true that some solutions are naturally in the offing, but for exactly this reason some coal plants are going to be working extra hours in the next decade to squeeze out what profit they can while they still can. We can avoid this last push of CO2 into the atmosphere by buying up the right to extract and holding it for a decade.

A program to leave coal in the ground could easily pay for itself in lives saved and climate stabilized.

Comments

This is brilliant. It might even work if India agrees to use the rental income to buy US nuclear plants or US oil. No doubt the whole thing could be underwritten by the Import-Export Bank. We can call it the George Mason protocol. Nobel prizes for all!

No, buying (or renting) foreign coal resources to prevent their development is "an idea so stupid only an intellectual could believe it."

It isnt so stupid when you are spending your own money and have the means to enforce it. There are lots of plant and animal reserves already in existence. I just dont know if that is scalable to planet saving levels.

Increasing demand for coal mines could result in new surveying technology designed to find smaller coal mines which would increase the supply of coal mines after you artificially deflated the supply meaning price could be lower after!

I don't think that this kind of thing is really possible. It assumes that these smaller coal mines would be profitable. No doubt some might, but the supply of profitable coal deposits is limited, the business is highly capital and scale intensive, and they have very high startup costs. It'd be fairly easy to adapt the modern procedures used to evaluate which coal deposits are economically viable today to price these smaller deposits. My guess is that a lot of them would turn up with insufficient return to be economically exploited, making their effective value zero and climate-buying not needed.

Unlike the carbon dioxide cap-and-trade scam wherein smaller sources of carbon dioxide can be trotted out, displacing natural sources, or projects already economically viable can take advantage of the circumstances, there isn't the possibility of a race to the bottom here. Those already economically viable projects don't have a path towards collecting additional rents, except through selling out, which is the point.

Regarding "It assumes that these smaller coal mines would be profitable," we also heard this: "It isn't profitable to extract oil & gas from these shale beds..."

Fantastic site. Lots of useful information here.
I'm sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious.
And certainly, thank you in your effort!

"planet saving levels"

There's no such thing. The planet doesn't need saving. Neither tax payers nor consumers should be forced to pay for CO2 prevention.

You choose to pay taxes. Your emissions are ruining my oceanfront property values so you should be sued for those damages. You're also making my air smell bad.

You choose to own oceanfront property. CO2 has no smell. And the effect of my emissions on your oceanfront property values is minimal.

And you'll choose to pay for the damages to my oceanfront property.

Is development of coal limited by the number of mines or by some other resource?

Say there are only enough coal workers to run 40 mines at a time, which takes 10 years each, and 400 coal mines waiting to be extracted. Buying up 200 of those mines for 20 years doesn't change the coal extraction at all. The industry as a whole is probably happy that you are paying to maintain their land holdings and overall are making investment in coal cheaper.

I'm not saying this is true. I'm saying it as something to be careful about. If coal mines are the limiting factor, then buying or even renting them is a good idea (at some price).

Indeed.

Imagine coming up with a solution to AGW that does not require more taxes and more oppressive regulations. Yeah, I know, it will never happen because the AGW scam was designed to extract money and power from you the citizens. Stay ignorant out there.

Scubbing the CO2 and other particulates from coal is a viable option. China and India should have implemented better scrubbing techniques in their energy development plans. Until competitive cheap energy is developed, coal still provides great bang for the buck.
Many new energy producing and energy saving have environmental dangers associated with them in their production, use, and disposal.
The overarching goal is to minimize the environmental and health impacts associated with energy while minimizing economic impacts.

Capturing the CO2 from burning coal is not viable. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal but will never build another coal power station because it can't compete with renewable energy. If a normal coal power station is not competitive then one with carbon capture definitely won't be.

"Capturing the CO2 from burning coal is not viable. "

+1

Scrubbing particulates is viable. CO2 is not a particulate, it's a gas.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/09/co2-turned-into-stone-in-iceland-in-climate-change-breakthrough

CO2 can be injected into the ground, however what a socialist GND paper like The Guardian might not be telling you, but they might know, is that pumping the gas into the ground might consume 40 to 60% of the energy output of the coal.

Is it failure to compete against renewables, or failure to compete against natural gas?

Failure to compete against renewables. Wind farms are being built for under 4 US cents per kilowatt-hour generated. Solar farms will soon be built for about the same price. Rooftop solar is competitive. South Australia gets about 10% of its electricity consumption from rooftop solar.

Natural gas is very expensive for most Australians as LNG export facilities have pushed its price in the eastern states towards international levels. Currently gas meets about 6.5% of electricity consumption. Less than hydroelectricity.

"Currently gas meets about 6.5% of electricity consumption."

"Coal and gas account for about 85% of electricity generation."

https://www.energy.gov.au/government-priorities/energy-supply

Here's a graph for you. It's only for grid generation and so doesn't include rooftop solar:

https://www.aer.gov.au/wholesale-markets/wholesale-statistics/generation-capacity-and-output-by-fuel-source

Fair enough, that data indicates that Brown & Black Coal and Gas account for 80.5% of production.

With renewable making up the other 20%. I do believe that progress is being made in renewable resource generation and I fully expect to see Austraila, the US and other major countries to be over 30% low-carbon sources in the next 10 years and probably closer to 50% in the next 20 years.

With no government assistance Australia is projected to be at 46% renewable electricity by 2030. The Labor government says if they get in they'll make it 50%. So they're willing to put their thumbs on the scales very lightly. Meanwhile, the Liberals want to subsidize coal power which does not make sense in terms of cost, health, or the environment.

"With no government assistance Australia is projected to be at 46% renewable electricity by 2030. "

I'm doubtful of such claims. Particularly from renewable advocates who often seem to be completely ignorant of basic economics.

Presumably that number doesn't include much expansion of hydro power. So they are making the claim that they can go from:

9.7% to 36.7% (solar & wind) in 12 years without government assistance.

That's a pretty extraordinary claim.

Last year Australia's grid generation was:
Hydro 9.3%
Wind 8.3%
Large scale solar 1.4%
Sugar cane waste - under 0.5%

With rooftop solar we're at roughly 24% renewable generation at the moment, so getting to 46% in 12 years would require us to slow down the rate at which we've been adding renewable capacity over the last 8 years.

Our coal fleet is really old. We've shut down 13 coal power stations totaling 6,501 megawatts in the past 7 years. That's something like 22% of our total coal capacity. A lot of old coal capacity has to be replaced over the next decade and since renewables are the cheapest option that's what will be used. So there's nothing strange or extraordinary about getting to 46% renewable generation in 12 years.

Also, "no government assistance" should have been no new government assistance. We are at the tail end of our Large-scale Renewable Energy Scheme while our Small-scale Renewable energy scheme that lowers the cost of rooftop solar is being more slowly phased out. Note that coal does not pay a carbon price or pay for health costs in Australia. It's dumb to subsidize renewables rather than make coal pay for its externalities, but we've never really claimed to be great intellects. We swim good though.

Good luck. I hope Australia does hit the 46% level by 2030.

China gets its coal from Australia, not the USA, so the US would have to buy Australian mines, which would make that richest woman miner in Australia very happy. Arguably even buying American coal mines would raise the world price, as US coal-fired plants would have to compete for world coal. I've seen coal even mined in the Philippines, as AlexT says, it's a couple of hundred dollars per truckload in value, not that much.

Bonus trivia: the Jevons coal question!

China produces a very large amount of coal domestically, in addition to what they import, so one could potentially buy mines in either place.

About 20 years ago, I hired a Chinese PhD engineer who had (before his PhD) spent a few years as a coal miner due to a political transgression. He didn't talk about it much, but he didn't enjoy the experience.

If you credit Wikipedia, "Based on analysis of satellite photos in 2018, environmental NGO CoalSwarm claims that 259 GW of new coal power plant capacity is under construction including plants that central authorities had canceled, postponed or slowed down."

That's more additional new Chinese coal fired generation capacity under construction that total US coal fired generation capacity.

Huh, a crazy Alex post that appears to make sense.

Don't underestimate the stupidity of unelected elites.

This BS simply is more proof that the idiotic, unelected elites careening about in their clown cars don't care about the harm imposed on normal people by their misbegotten policies.

>and climate stabilized.

You realize that nothing humans do affects the climate, right?

It isn't just that there is a stupidity-conservative binding on climate, it is that conservatives positively revel in their stupidity.

I mean sure, people like Alex can blue sky extremely hypothetical solutions, but in the same week Trump will say "but it is snowing in Minnesota!" and that will be it.

It's snowing in Hawaii.

"Hawaii recorded what may be the lowest elevation snow in state history"

https://www.sfgate.com/weather/article/Hawaii-recorded-what-may-be-the-lowest-elevation-13607099.php

If leftists didnt crow about AGW every time we break a sweat, no one would be talking about cold days disproving GW. Climate alarmists depend upon popular ignorance that every extreme weather event (or even normal ones) are "evidence" for a theory.

You reap what you sow.

There is no cure or limit for unelected elites' dishonesty and stupidity.

It's interglacial and solar output.

As long as there's graft to be collected and they share some, the imbecilic, unelected elites don't care what happens to ordinary Americans. Every policy they push is harmful to middle-class and low-to-moderate income (real) Americans. Solar energy generation is five-times and wind energy generation is 3.5 times more expensive than fossil fuels energy generation.

In the past million years, there were four planetary glaciations and global warmings, none were caused my human activity.

Anthropomorphic Climate Change Is A Hoax.

"Anthropomorphic Climate Change Is A Hoax."

I don't believe that. However, I do believe that Global warming has been consistently over estimated and the effects have been drastically overestimated.

And yes, the worst case Global Warming scenarios predict a rise in Earth's temperature to roughly the level of 3 million years ago. It was much warmer than that before that time period.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/Five_Myr_Climate_Change.png

The earth is, of course, completely immune to the effects of human activity. Everyone knows the hole in the ozone layer was caused by pigeons and their feather spray.

Ozone holes can't be created by natural causes?

Is one man made environmental effect proof that another one exists? Wouldn't the chemistry of our ozone layer be arguably different from that of greenhouse gasses?

At most, you're providing an example that mankind CAN affect the environment. That falls way short of proving that we did, much less doing it in several different ways.

You think pigeons don't count as a natural cause?

Until right-wing economists like Tyler and Alex confront the reality of conservative denial, they aren't really helping. They only present a fig leaf, a pretense, that the right-wing is somehow involved in solutions while never actually doing anything.

Conservative denial is rather disquieting. I have often argued that while I can understand that there are concerns around pollution and its effects, along with (changing) weather patterns, it is the people that spend their entire lives dedicated to the cause, that surpass my understanding. I will admit my opinion has changed in this regard, more basically because of a growing affinity for nature than for a belief in the infinity of global warming. The affect is to change from it doesn't really matter to it must matter.

Some historians see this rise in absentee ownership as a sign of decline, but it is also among the first instances of the separation of ownership and management, Rosenthal says—a landmark in the history of capitalism. https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/01/16/the-messy-link-between-slave-owners-and-modern-management/#4507ab3b317f

" The United States, for example, could buy out and close coal mines"

I suspect that would lead to national appropriation during the first down turn. There would be a populist demand for a reduction in electricity costs and local politicians pointing out that the Evil Americans are just sitting on this coal mine while the poor can't afford to heat their homes.

This is a completely unworkable solution.

On second thought, I heartily encourage Green groups to pool their money and buy up coal plants around the world to save the environment. They can use their high moral standing to dissuade appropriations.

While Al Gore isn't yet quite in the bad boy billionaire club, his net worth is reportedly about $300 million, after selling a cable channel to Al Jazeera, and leveraging his political resume for investment banking.

Since at some point you have enough money anyway, I'd expect he would be more than happy to contribute at least 80% of this wealth to this effort. Someone should ask him.

At the very least he should contribute 10%. That's just a tithe to Mother Gaia.

Right, because Democrats hold 100% responsibility to solve all health and safety problems, even as you oppose them 100% of the time.

No, they absolutely don't hold 100% responsibility. This is a choice of free will and the chance for them to put their money where their mouth is. If AGW is truly catastrophic, then Al Gore spending 10% of his wealth fighting it seems to be a trivial matter.

My assumption is that if rich Leftwing multimillionaires don't put at least a fraction of their money into fighting global warming, then I've revealed a preference.

Oh oh, what if Trump won't spend 10% of his wealth on a wall!

Exactly! That's a revealed preference. Now you understand.

https://www.gofundme.com/TheTrumpWall

GFM is a legit site. Apparently people really want the wall, to the tune of $20 million of their own money.

Of course, far more people do not want it.

It's water under the bridge. The Democrats have agreed to giving Trump a third of what he wants. So, Trump will be building the Wall. Not all of it, but enough for him to declare a win.

"The Democrats' total capitulation on the border"

"Yet after all this drama, it's unclear if Democrats accomplished much beyond virtue signaling to their base. If anything, they may have given Trump a green light to forge ahead with his draconian interior enforcement agenda without any meaningful oversight of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)."

"Handing Trump some wall money might have been worth it if Democrats had got something in return like legalizing the DREAMers"

"So, all in all, Trump got more money for a border barrier, enhanced border security, and increased detention capacity. What did Democrats get? Absolutely nothing. Zilch. Nada."

https://goo.gl/ZfsKK6

Remember we covered this before...the Wall Shutdown (TM) was never about money, or even border security, it was a symbolic slapfight about the word "Wall". The deal got made because Dems made sure it's not a "wall". Trump is miffed because it's not a "wall". Dems 'won' because they held firm and no "wall", and the shutdown was blamed on Trump. Trump 'won' for the reasons above. Both sides will now claim victory with their bases.

But border security is actually not just a Rep thing so more money to secure the border. Good. And now we move on to the next bit of theater.

What should worry all of us is the debt ceiling limit coming up in March. Government shutdowns are less than nothing compared to potential Treasury default.

Its more the principle of putting your money where your mouth is, not putting the middle classes' money where your mouth is. Standard DNC policy is to use other people's money, skim some off for yourself.

DNC uses other people's money for social programs. RNC uses other people's grandchildren's money for bailouts and tax cuts for corporations and the rich.

I heartily encourage Green groups to pool their money and buy up coal plants

The plan is to use YOUR money

Swiss innovation: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/magazine/climeworks-business-climate-change.html

This is what the EU already does to its own coal mines: The trick is that it wrecks economies in semi rural areas that rely on coal. Doing that to your own country seems fine: How sure would you be that China, after it sees the result, will not give the finger to your property rights later? That is what happens when you buy oil rights in Venezuela.

Don't forget the asbestos miners and mine owners, unfairly cut off from their work by government capriciousness.

-1, Non sequitur

Can anyone really not follow the simple logic of "things we mine(d) which are harmful?" It's not really a heavy lift.

Sure, it's similar to "people who are despicable". For example, referring to a group you don't like as fascists.

Asbestos is banned in 50 counties because of high levels of toxicity. Coal isn't currently banned in any country.

You aren't keeping a real good grip on science or human welfare there. And be warned. People notice. That's why Mark Kelly claims "science, and data, and facts" in his campaign launch. Because you all gave them up.

https://markkelly.com/

"And be warned. People notice. "

Oddly enough, silly veiled threats from "anonymous" posters on the internet, don't keep me awake at night.

"science, and data, and facts""

Then you should try some.

Here's the MSDS for asbestos:
https://www.2spi.com/catalog/documents/Final_AsbestosChrysotile.pdf

(Also, I stand corrected. Asbestos isn't classified as a toxic agent. It's a Group 1-Carcinogenic).

MSDS for coal:
Section 16: Coal is a Health = 1 & Fire = 1

https://www.spragueenergy.com/getmedia/9c8051e0-7995-46ec-a66f-2e883cc8b21a/bituminous-coal-sds.pdf.aspx

That's funny. Asbestos is bad? You apparently don't remember things like..

"Legislation aimed at restricting asbestos-related liability lawsuits was approved Wednesday by the Republican-controlled Iowa Senate, despite heated complaints by Democrats that the measure will hurt sick and dying Iowans."

Or

"In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Trump argued that the association of the chemical with health risks was part of a mob-created conspiracy. “I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented,” he wrote."

-1 Non sequitur

You are back to where you started.

No, I agree with Anonymous that coal should be banned. It is pure poison, and nobody needs to make steel anymore, anyway. New buildings can all be made from driftwood and reclaimed styrofoam.

"Anonymous that coal should be banned. It is pure poison, and nobody needs to make steel anymore, anyway."

Steel can be made using natural gas rather than coal. That's what they've been doing in Abu Dhabi for years.

https://www.emiratessteel.com/index.php/en/what-we-do/product-range/direct-reduced-iron

Brazil has used wood charcoal on a large scale. Hydrogen can also be used to reduce iron, but it should be far cheaper to use natural gas as mentioned and then capture the CO2 and sequester it. The capturing could be done directly on site or from the atmosphere either agriculturally or industrially, with agriculture being cheaper at the moment.

"Hydrogen can also be used to reduce iron, but it should be far cheaper to use natural gas as mentioned and then capture the CO2 and sequester it."

Yes, using natural gas and then capturing and sequestering CO2 is in fact what Emirates Steel has been doing since November 2016:

https://www.thenational.ae/business/abu-dhabi-starts-up-world-s-first-commercial-steel-carbon-capture-project-1.213295:

Very interesting.

Would such a scheme simply create more coal mines?

More expensive ones, presumably.

Would it help if we financed the scheme with a carbon tax on imports?

The scheme will be financed by the Fed. The fed will create X-billion worth of coal-reduction-bonds and add it to its balance sheet and the money thus "created" will buy the mines. I actually fear something like this might happen.

Let India and China choke on their own pollution. As they develop a middle class, they will constrict coal usage.

A better and more popular idea would be to do an education campaign in China and India on the effects of pollution on their health.

Where there is an indigenous political will there is a way.

Hope you are right. But ... India has a caste system that militates against the division into classes. China has a deeply authoritarian Commie Party that might accept a middle if it is ideologically vetted and approved.

Then we can buy all the oil companies and airlines.

Develop a coal mine for housing you say?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania

People are responsible for global warming. So let's do a Coasean bargain: let's pay doctors in third world countries not to practice medicine, and that will reduce the number of people and so relieve global warming.

Not as sarcastic as you may think. In places like India, coal is burned to produce electricity. Without electricity, people burn fires in their homes for heat, cooking, and light. Fires create indoor pollution which shortens lives. Not burning coal causes pollution and early death.

I think West Virginia should open many more coal mines and announce they will maximize extraction. Then China can use some its $3 trillion in forex reserves to buy the coal rights there to reduce coal production. Really, why could the US be paying to reduce coal? The US should be paid to reduce coal.

I think building new nuclear power plants is the solution to global warming, but environmentalists oppose them. Can we pay off the environmentalists so they shut up? It really is win-win for all.

While we are at it, here is a Coasean bargain: can we crowd source enough funds to get AOC to retire from Congress?

If we crowdsourced her out of Congress, we would only be paying for her to be replaced by someone equally stupid from her district. The benefits must be reduced by the costs of the next best alternative.

We would have better luck crowdsourcing bribes. It would be cheaper too.

I would wholeheartedly support a carbon tax if the money were used to build new nuclear plants.

-dk

I love the hand waving "easily pay for itself" claim at the bottom. Alex should write rules for a government agency. While he did quantify the number of "early deaths," he came nowhere close to placing a monetary value on increasing the life span in India and China for a year or so. Clearly these central planning countries haven't placed much value on their citizen's lives, so why should we?

And how much will it cost to buy those mines? Youd have to pay the net present value of all future mining operations in perpetuity. But then someone could buy and prepare to mine an adjacent plot of untapped coal, and government would have to buy that too. Coal mining firms can make a fortune without digging one chunk of coal!

This speaks nothing of the transition costs of switching to non coal fuel sources.

Articles like this are why the term "ivory tower" was coined. No one who comes up with these hair brained notions has ever had to actually run such a program, much less pay for it.

It is a very interesting academic idea, and more palatable than a ban. But it is a tempest in a teapot.

Great idea.

The big problem is that this would be 'on budget' environmentalism. Environmentalists would have to justify the cost of their programs, as well as compete for scarce funds against other interest groups.

For this reason, they typically prefer 'off budget' techniques (e.g., ban something, technology standards, sue-and-settle, etc.)

Climate change is the straw that breaks the libertarian’s ideology. Is there a libertarian economist who does not advocate massive government intervention to prevent the climate doomsday? Is there a libertarian economist who is not supremely confident in governments’ ability effectively to stop anthropogenic climate change?

No, spending some amount of money to slow down climate change is an issue that most people agree with. Libertarian's aren't anarchists and most of them don't want to dismantle the Federal government. Sure the libertarian economists who argue in favor of Federal intervention aren't being strict libertarians, but they are being pragmatic. People aren't going to blame you for not being an ideologue.

Advocating for Open Borders is an example of the "straw that breaks the libertarian’s ideology". It's a position that Libertarian Economists are essentially For, though there's often a semantic argument. Furthermore, it's a fringe issue.

I would be concerned about how secure foreign property rights would be once the lights start going out. "Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country" after all...

Regardless, this seems like something that would work best as a non-profit. You'd need a way to aggregate money from a lot of small donors.

Don't dream. China and India won't let you buy coal mines in their countries to close them.

+1, it's a pie in the sky proposition.

Alex, do you feel brave enough to advocate doing this in Mexico? I strongly suspect you'd be denounced as a racist immediately, even ignoring the obvious political issues.

I suppose Tabarrok's plan could be called the Green Old Deal, as opposed to the Green New Deal. The difference, of course, is that the Green New Deal focuses on improving the lives of ordinary, working Americans while the Green Old Deal focuses on improving the lives of the owners of assets (in this case, coal). President Trump is a FOC (Friend of Coal), and so are the rest of us (FOC'd, that is).

"...the Green New Deal focuses on improving the lives of ordinary, working Americans..."

In the same sense that Lysenko was focused on improving the lives of ordinary, working Russians, except that the Green New Deal is both far more ambitious and far more crazy than Lysenko was.

The Green New Deal, more ambitious than anything Hugo Chavez tried!

Yes, the Green New Deal is a perfect example of people proposing to rapidly and radically transform industries (e.g., electrical production, oil and natural gas production, and transportation) about which they have essentially zero knowledge.

One point that is nicely illustrated in the chart included in this post is just how little impact any possible reduction in US emissions will have on global emissions, and hence on global climate.

But reducing carbon emissions today by a small amount can greatly improve the future because of the compounding effect. That's Cowen's new book.

"But reducing carbon emissions today by a small amount can greatly improve the future because of the compounding effect. "

Exactly how is their a compounding effect from reducing carbon emissions by a "small" amount?

...there..

Climate change is not a binary. It's not like we hit 458PPM of CO2 and suddenly the Earth explodes. It doesn't work like that.

At best we can slow the rate of change of the climate, giving us more time to adapt to a warmer world.

The difference between a world warmer by 3.0 degrees versus 2.5 degrees is meaningful. A gap between 3.5 degrees and 3.0 degrees is meaningful.

The US needs to be a world leader in low carbon technology and then export this tech to the rest of the world. The only way we can convince India and China to decarbonize is if it's profitable to do so. It will only be profitable to do so if the world comes up with better energy sources and better industrial/agricultural methods that aren't as carbon intensive.

Don't buy old coal mines, spend that money on R&D. We'll get a few Solyndras but we'll also get a few Teslas. It's worth it.

Nonsense. Everyone knows there is a "tipping point" beyond which the world ends. Hence, all the 10 or 12 year warnings.

Solar/wind are not substitutes for coal and oil.

Solar doesn't work at night. Wind power only works in proper weather.

For a small percentage of total power, new solar/wind power can reduce total CO2 production by taking advantage of proper weather.

Can solar/wind cover 80% of the grid? Nope.

So buying a few coal fields might reduce emissions at the margin, but the benefits will bottom out quickly without much decarbonization.

"Can solar/wind cover 80% of the grid?"

Not with currently available storage technology, solar/wind technology, and level of grid "intelligence". But that doesn't mean it can never be done in any country.

Wind and solar plus dispatchable storage or generators is now cheaper than baseload fossil fuel generation and so 80% of electricity generation being met by solar and wind is what we will end up with here in Australia, unless something better comes along.

And Australia will continue to suffer grid degeneration, increased blackouts, higher prices, increased wear and tear on the necessary coal-fired generation capacity, and overall waste. Not a great deal at all. http://joannenova.com.au/?s=grid

So companies that keep their coal power stations open, or build new ones as they are free to do, will make huge amounts of money then?

Funny how they keep closing coal power stations and not building new ones then. Companies have made business decisions to shut down 13 coal power stations have been shut in the past 7 years and a new coal power station hasn't been built since 2009.

I guess our companies must be really stupid.

Colonialism to save the planet! Not a great slogan.

Seems to me that if I buy one mine, the returns to the others goes up.
As I buy more mines, the marginal coal mines open their doors once again....

Buy coal mines in China? No way. The Chinese Communist Party will see this as foreign interference in their own state planning.

Destroying demand can be done more reliably than buying up supply. I think it makes more sense to spend money to subsidize construction of solar and wind power sites near areas of the US that most heavily rely on coal for electric power.

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