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Maybe then we might get more potholes filled and more rusty rivets replaced on bridges.

The other recent tragedy that has held the nation’s painful attention — the mine cave-in in Utah — also has implications that few seem to notice.

We could have far fewer men going down into those mines in the first place if we could use other readily available and economically viable substitutes for coal, such as nuclear power or more of our own oil.

Here too, politics is the problem. The only “alternative energy sources” that are on the political agenda are those few very expensive options that environmentalist zealots approve.

Nuclear power is not on the green zealots’ approved list, even though nuclear power is widely used in other countries.

Some say nuclear power is not safe. But nothing is categorically “safe.” The only serious question is how its safety compares to that of alternative ways of generating energy.

Ask the families of the trapped miners if they think mining is safe. Ask them if they would rather face the grim reality of a death in their family or the hypothetical possibility of inconveniencing some caribou in Alaska.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.