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You failed economics, didn't you?

26 Jan 2022 | OP ED Watch

Apparently Greenpeace wants to buy a coal mine. But no, they’re not angling for hypocrite of the week. Just dunce. The plan is to buy it and shut it down. Which would be a great reason for the seller to take the cash, go find another mine, and… open it then offer it to Greenpeace. The idea of trying to get rid of a product by buying as much of it as you can find is so silly we’re tempted to say nothing and let them spend all their money. But since they probably won’t listen to us anyway, we decided to mock them so we can say “Told you so” later.

In covering this odd initiative the BBC sympathetically outlines “The environmental case for buying a coal mine”. Which brings to mind the economic case for governments selling their media outlets so they start talking sense to paying customers instead of preaching dogma to a captive lack of audience who must fund what they do not watch. But the BBC fails economics too.

To see why, imagine you decided oranges were an affront to decency, a threat to civilization or both, so you would remove them from the market by buying them all. Please tell us that even Greenpeace can foresee what would happen. Correct. The more oranges were for sale today, the more money you would give the growers, and the more they’d find a way to offer new crops of oranges for sale tomorrow.

Sort of like trying to get rid of illegal drugs by buying them. Or an illegal-gun buyback. And several other thoughts spring to mind, not friendly to the venture. For instance instead of buying the whole mine, why not just buy the coal and put it back underground unburned? (Not quite as sarcastic as it sounds; environmental groups do sometimes buy carbon permits then just sit on them.) Also just how much money does Greenpeace have, that they can outbid the mighty fossil fuel sector for key assets? Or how little brains, that they think they can crush supply by boosting demand?

Anyway, we will enjoy watching it. And wondering whether Greenpeace will one day find itself explaining that, having spent so much money on coal mines, it really has to sell the coal in order to finance its war on same. They wouldn’t be the first ideological group to degenerate into a hustle.

3 comments on “You failed economics, didn't you?”

  1. Reminds me of a sign I saw in a bar in Texas a few years ago: Our aim is to rid the world of alcohol - one glass at a time.

  2. Same result as mentioned in a Dilbert cartoon long ago when management offered to pay their programmers for each bug they found and fixed.

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