I may be a remainer but I’m not a re-miner.

If there was a referendum on the proposed new coal mine in west Cumbria, I’d be voting no.

More than 40 Conservative MPs have apparently now signed a letter supporting the creation of Britain’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years.

They say it will create hundreds of jobs and produce coal needed for the UK steel industry.

But the Government’s own climate advisers – and anyone with half a clue about the environment – say it is bad news, and that the last thing we should be doing at the moment is setting fire to yet more fossil fuel.

The case for this new coal mine seems weak. The idea that the steel industry needs it doesn’t stand up. Around 85 per cent of the coal would be exported anyway.

The figure of 500 jobs is exaggerated. Jobs always matter, but unemployment in Copeland is lower than the national average.

And job creation at any cost is a nonsensical argument. If there was no crime, police and prison officers would be out of work. If there was no illness, doctors and nurses would be out of work. Nobody argues that crime or illness need to be encouraged for the jobs that rely on them.

Reading about this reminded me of something I’d read 30 years earlier ­— Ben Elton’s first novel, Stark.

It features a hard-headed and hard-hearted Australian tycoon called Sly Moorcock ­— there were no prizes for guessing who he was based on ­—– who was dismissive of environmentalism, and argued it was wrong to flout the sacred principles of market forces and capitalism.

But the novel and the news story both represent a popular misconception: that what’s good for the environment is bad for the economy, and vice versa.

At the moment, there’s an economic argument in favour of easing and lifting the lockdown restrictions as soon as possible, versus the health arguments against doing so too soon.

To many people, environmentalism and economic prosperity seem to go head to head in the same way.

Yet they can go hand in hand. There are plenty of jobs that could be created in the green economy.

It could mean installing solar panels or building and erecting wind turbines, or insulating homes and fitting them with energy-saving lightbulbs, to cut down on power consumption and heating bills at the same time – a simultaneous environmental and economic benefit.

The car industry could receive a boost if there was more government support for battery-operated vehicles. The Government could take a lead by making all ministerial cars battery-powered.

If I were environment minister, I’d double or even triple the price of plastic carrier bags in all shops. People are much more likely to recycle if they’ll save money at it.

We have a shortage of affordable housing. And we have brownfield sites standing empty, unused and ugly, like the large one on the northern side of Denton Street in Carlisle.

So we could still protect the parks and green fields that act as lungs in towns and cities by ensuring that brownfield sites are cleaned up and made ready for housebuilding, and forbidding building elsewhere until they are all filled.

Otherwise, the brownfield sites will lie empty, unused and rat-infested forever.

The same could go for some of those empty shops that have been the victim of internet shopping and the pandemic. We’ll wait a long time for new businesses to move into them. Couldn’t at least some of them be converted for housing? Town centre shops and eateries would do well if they also became some people’s local shop.

It would take government intervention to amend the “change of use” rules that state that business premises have to remain business premises.

Indeed, for any of these to happen would require state intervention. The free market is never going to clean up brownfield sites, increase the price of plastic bags, insulate houses, ban smoking in public places or advance social progress in so many important ways.

For years we’ve been encouraged to dislike or distrust the state and state intervention, and the phrase “the nanny state” was coined to create a notion that it wanted to tell everyone what to do. Some people, such as smokers and obese people, probably do need to be told.

But let’s remember that it’s the state that provides police officers, firefighters and ambulance drivers and all the most popular members of society. And it created the NHS.

Nobody complains about the “nanny state” when it’s treating you for Covid, curing you of cancer, or saving the life of your child.