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A Sustainable Development Framework For Coalbed Methane Development

Luke Danielson, Regulation and Development of Coalbed Methane (2002)

The goal for development of any resource - particularly one which is in large part publicly owned - should be maximising human welfare in the long run. This objective is particularly important in the case of depletion of a non-renewable resource such as coalbed methane. Achieving it requires that at the end of the day the total fund of capital available to society and the individuals within it is greater than it was at the outset. But it also requires an understanding that the available capital on which we all depend takes a number of forms - that natural capital and human capital, for example, also need to be counted in the equation.i There are many examples of natural resource development that have by this measure been successful; there are also many which have proven unsuccessful.

The promise is use of coalbed methane to create capital that will continue to yield benefits as the resource is depleted: better educated people, stronger communities, useful infrastructure, more productive ecosystems. The threat is a short sighted development that squanders and irreplaceable resource and leaves depleted ecosystems, destabilized communities, and useless capital equipment.

Whether our actions today to develop coalbed methane will ultimately prove to be successful or unsuccessful depends in large part on our ability to create an enabling framework that allows econom