William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882), a British economist, wrote The Coal Question in 1865, in which he called attention to possible socioeconomic impacts of the exhaustion of Britain's coal supplies. Jevons reasoned that as coal reserves were depleted, the price of coal would rise, making it economically feasible to extract coal from poorer or deeper seams. Jevons failed to anticipate the fact that as the price of an energy source rises, firms have an incentive to develop substitutes. Thus, he did not anticipate the development of oil and gas that ultimately replaced coal as the dominant energy source. While The Coal Question received great publicity, Jevons' major contribution was as a founder of the so-called marginal revolution in economics. Replacing the labor theory of value held by the classical economists, neoclassical economists believed that value is derived from people’s utility (satisfaction) from consuming goods and services.
- Jevons, William Stanley. 1865. The Coal Question in Encyclopedia of Earth.