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Archive for March, 2012

“Though the Centralia Coal Mine was the fifth largest in the United States when Dave was working there, only three of its ten seams of coal were actually mined. Seven seams of valuable coal were completely wasted, treated as ‘overburden,’ dug up and plowed back into the pit, mixed with dirt, silt, sand, and rock.

“Wasting seven seams of coal meant the mine would have a shorter life, about forty years rather than 140 years if the coal from all ten seams was recovered. Dave questioned the logic of mining only three seams. The mine’s financial officer provided an explanation: ‘We make one percent more in profit by mining only the three best seams.’ Astonished, Dave argued the point: ‘But that’s one percent more profit over forty years versus one percent less profit over 140 years. The owners will make more over the long run by mining ten seams.’ [T]he financial officer replied, ‘But we want to maximize returns this quarter.’ He shrugged, turned, and walked away.”

— John de Graff and David K. Batker, What’s the Economy For, Anyway? (New York : Bloomsbury, 2011), pg. 11.

 

What public interest should be asserted in ensuring that non-renewable natural assets are efficiently used?

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