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Coal kills people apparently – sadly, so does everything else

Summary:
What is assumed to be a top and trumping argument from Australia:Coal kills people. This isn’t even slightly scientifically controversial.From the mines to the trains to the climate disruption; from black lung to asthma, heat stress to hunger, fires to floods: coal is killing people in Australia and around the world right now.Yet we are once again having what passes for political debate about extending the life of coal-fired power stations and, extraordinarily, building new ones.It's entirely true that the mining of coal, the use of it, does indeed kill people. But this is not a top and trumping argument, because everything kills people. Solar power kills people, nuclear does too (rather fewer in the second case but still), hydro has killed hundreds of thousands in catastrophic failures,

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What is assumed to be a top and trumping argument from Australia:

Coal kills people. This isn’t even slightly scientifically controversial.
From the mines to the trains to the climate disruption; from black lung to asthma, heat stress to hunger, fires to floods: coal is killing people in Australia and around the world right now.

Yet we are once again having what passes for political debate about extending the life of coal-fired power stations and, extraordinarily, building new ones.

It's entirely true that the mining of coal, the use of it, does indeed kill people. But this is not a top and trumping argument, because everything kills people. Solar power kills people, nuclear does too (rather fewer in the second case but still), hydro has killed hundreds of thousands in catastrophic failures, people have been falling off windmills since at least the 12 th century AD in Western Europe when the technology first arrived.

Not having energy also kills people. Having only expensive energy kills people.

Every method and mode of producing energy kills people, every method of organising the economy kills people as does not having an economy organised in any manner, every mode and method of life kills people too. What matters is which kills the fewest and the answer is that, yes, coal kills people, rather fewer than not having any energy. That's actually our entire problem with climate change, that emitting or polluting energy sources have their downsides, but so does no or expensive energy.

But we would really reserve our ire for this misunderstanding:

In capitalism, we have created the first social organising principle based on selfishness, the first system to make greed, competition, non-cooperation its credo.

Capitalism, or if you prefer, global markets - which is what is being complained about here - enables the some 5 billion of us (some 2 billion are still as yet, and sadly, not quite plugged into the global economy) to cooperate with each other to our ever greater enrichment. To insist that the one system which enables that widespread cooperation is based upon non-cooperation is indeed a misunderstanding. Perhaps one so egregious that it rises to the level of idiocy.

Tim Worstall

Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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