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A coalowner on coal

21 December 2019

9:00 AM

21 December 2019

9:00 AM

From 16 June 1866: Mr Stanley Jevons, Mr Mill, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer are all agreed that there is imminent danger of exhausting the British store of coal, are almost willing to legislate upon that annoying datum… The philosopher may of course argue that it is all a question of time, that the coal must be exhausted some day, and that a few hundred years make no difference to his argument, but this is not a political view. A politician may justly legislate with a view to the situation of our grandchildren, but no one out of Laputa legislates for a thousand years hence, simply because no one is vain enough to be believe that he can foresee the circumstances which may then be in operation… It is possible that we are as yet only on the threshold of scientific discovery, that all existing notions may in a century be superseded. Force can only be produced by consuming something, but it need not be necessarily coal, still less the proportion of consumption to product remain at an unvarying figure. Coal is only bottled sunshine, when all is said —suppose we discover how to make the sunshine toil without being bottled first.


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