Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Coal Problem Solved: Buy Them Out

Burton Richter (a Nobel Laureate in physics for co-discovering the charm quark) has an interesting solution to American's coal problem: buy them off.
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, 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.
Since the damage from coal-fired power plants is an estimated $62 billion/yr (that was in 2005, according to the NAS report "Hidden Cost of Energy"), we'd save a lot of money, even if we had to up the $50k/yr for some executives and company owners and maybe their children. (Company shareholders might complain, but, for example, Arch Coal's market cap is only $977 million, and that would be a one-time expense.)

P.S.: I recently interviewed Richter -- twice -- for my Scientific American article on the Superconducting Supercollider's 20th Anniversary. He seemed to know everyone and remember everything.

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