Is environmentally-driven purchasing of coal mines a good idea? Certainly environmental non-profits won't have enough funds to do it on a large scale. Governments have, but they are corrupt. There's a huge risk that they'll just buy up those mines under the pretext of climate change and after the reserves deplete elsewhere and the prices soar, it'll just be one colossal fossil fuel cartel that would dwarf OPEC immensely


1 Answer 1


No this won't work, because there's so much coal reserves, unless you buy all of them.

With oil it might just work. Buy an oilfield and promise to not utilize it in any manner. However, the fossil fuel industry is probably capable of finding more oilfields than there is room for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and electric car transition is rapidly progressing, so I wouldn't be surprised if we naturally end up with unused oilfields. So the plan to buy oilfields could only work if there are more buyers for oilfields to be left unutilized than what oil would be left unutilized naturally.

With natural gas it might work. Natural gas will be used as transition adjustable power in electricity grids (because we don't have enough hydropower resources), to be replaced later with hydrogen. If you buy natural gas fields and leave them unused, it might accelerate the transition towards hydrogen. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised if the hydrogen transition accelerates so much that natural gas would be left unused naturally too. So not certain it will work, like with oil.

With coal no way is it going to work. The problem is, we have massive massive coal reserves, so much that using them all would warm the planet at least 10 degrees Celsius if not more. No way would all of them be utilized naturally. So your plan would work only if you purchased every single coal mine on this planet, and would continue buying them at a great rate as new mines are found.

A simpler way, much cheaper, would be to just buy carbon dioxide permits and promise to leave them unused. However, if enough many people start doing this, the policymakers deciding the number of carbon dioxide permits will increase the number of future permits, knowing that part of them will be left unused by intentional buyers, so the effect might be negated.

Another simpler way, much cheaper, is to buy forest and create biochar from the trees. No need to find all that money for a single oilfield, gasfield or coal mine.

Also a very important (if not the most important) way to prevent dangerous climate change is to vote in every election for a candidate favoring the environment. Also you should change all home appliances to the most energy efficient appliances possible, and switch to an electric car. All of them are cheaper than buying coal mines. Any unused money should be invested in companies that do good for the environment.

  • 1
    So your plan would work only if you purchased every single coal mine on this planet, and would continue buying them at a great rate as new mines are found. There's an old joke, You don't have to outrun the bear; you just have to outrun the other people. Similarly, you don't have to buy up all the reserves in the world. The more you buy, the more it costs for coal consumers to get at the remaining coal left over; you'd need to buy enough to make coal uneconomical, relative to other energy sources. Jan 21 at 17:28
  • That might still be impracticable, possible even absurd, given how much you'd have to buy up to seriously move the market. On the other hand, coal is already economically pretty marginal in many developed markets (hence the widespread shift in the US etc. to cheaper natural gas). I have no way of knowing what's possible here, but it seems like the thing you should be looking at is "Could somebody lock up enough coal to move the commodities markets?" not "Could somebody lock up all the coal in the world?" Jan 21 at 17:30
  • @AlabamaScholiast The problem of coal is that we have 10x the amount of reserves we could realistically use without causing dangerous climate change. So if you buy 95% of the coal reserves, in that case you could have some effect. However, buying less than 90% of coal reserves is not enough, as we probably are going to use only 10% of reserves anyway.
    – juhist
    Jan 21 at 17:41
  • However, buying less than 90% of coal reserves is not enough... Why not? Again, you do not need to lock up all of the coal reserves that people might use. What you need to do is affect the price of coal so that it is prohibitively expensive to burn it, relative to other things you might use for energy. If the price of coal increases significantly, then ceteris paribus for-profit companies will buy and burn less coal, even if there is still lots of coal left over for them to buy. Jan 21 at 18:48
  • 1
    It would almost certainly be cheaper to buy politicians, or at least join the auction to drive the price up for the fossil companies. But it's worth remembering that an awful lot of fossil reserves are owned by governments (Saudi Arabia is an obvious example), and there is no way to use money to change their behaviour - not so much that they have more of it than you, but they are soveriegn countries so other people's money is less important to them. Limiting their ability to spend their money would be more useful, but that';s back into "vote. campaign" territory
    – Móż
    Jan 21 at 23:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.