Campus Media Response: Punishing Coal: Truly Criminal

Crime and Punishment: Jumping off the coal train, April 7, 2009
The Stanford Daily
Stanford University


Your article, “Crime and Punishment: Jumping off the coal train,” argues that despite the benefits of coal America should switch to “sustainable” energy production. Yet, aside from a ludicrous metaphor comparing coal fuel to eating cake you make no attempt to explain what the benefits of coal actually are. In other words, your article fails to fairly analyze the sacrifice involved for America to “get off the coal train”—and once considered, the cost is hardly insignificant. Almost 50% of America’s power generation comes from coal. The suggestion that coal is cheap and readily available is a gross understatement. At current consumption levels known coal deposits will last more than 300 years and the cost of coal makes oil and gas look absurdly expensive—forget about wind and solar. The obvious consequence of replacing coal power plants with “green” energy is that people will be paying much higher monthly electric bills. Yet, the notion that it is only our electric bills that will suffer is mistaken. Everything we do and everything we buy—from going to the movies to the computer you’re reading this on—has the cost of electricity built into its price. If electricity is more expensive then literally everything else becomes more expensive—and this doesn’t even take into consideration the taxes we’re already paying into the research and development of unproven technologies. In essence, by insisting that America get off the coal train you’re telling people to pay more for less. Pay more for power, have less for the things that fulfill our lives, spend more time at work, less time at home with our families, have more ecological concerns, less human concerns. You might spurn the daily issues of human life on the basis of highly contested environmental predictions—but as for me, I say, “Let them eat cake.”

Brian Cassin

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