King Coal Country Debates a Sacrilege, Gas Heat

Hidden in the beginning of an article on a county heavily dependent on coal contemplating a switch to natural gas heating…

“Heritage should account for something,” said James J. Rhoades, a Republican state senator from Schuylkill County.

King Coal Country Debates a Sacrilege, Gas Heat – NYTimes.com

Of course, this argument can be made to defend any practice including child marriage, the caste system, widow burning, slavery, genocide (the list goes on…). Coal is in august company.

Some of the issues with anthracite:

But what makes this brittle and lustrous rock, often known as black diamond, so hard and pure is that it is often deeper and under greater pressure than other forms of coal, which also explains why it is expensive and dangerous to extract.

The anthracite mines in this area have seen more than 30,000 deaths since 1870.

The argument about local jobs being lost and local economies being damaged is a valid one and needs to be addressed. In theory, destructive practices cannot be continued in order to prop up local economies. But decisions are made locally and it takes a lot of political courage to shutdown a destructive economy and possibly doom a town to fast death. I guess the solution is to provide alternative modes of economy and employment growth during the transition, easier said than done. Problem with being a one horse town, you better hope your horse stays forever young!

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1 comment for “King Coal Country Debates a Sacrilege, Gas Heat

  1. June 10, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    Came across this discussion, being I’ve been in the coal industry most of life as has my family I lay some facts on the line.

    One ton of anthracite coal is going to be about 25 million BTU’s, from my understanding Schuylkill County has contract for $120 a ton. To equal that with NG going by the recent spot prices you would spend approx. $270

    True the boilers are more maintenance but its not that much, I have a coal boiler in my cellar that requires a few minutes work each day and has been running 24/7/365 for better than 25 years. The efficiency is slightly lower than that of a NG unit so that is not an argument either.

    Bottom line is the long term cost of any heating system is going to be dictated by the cost of the fuel to run it. At more than double the cost there is absolutely no way gas can compete under any circumstances. Should also be mentioned the cost of NG is following right int the footsteps of regular gas, anthracite is currently the same price it was in the fall.

    As far as the death toll mentioned most of those deaths occurred in the early part of the century, there’s only one death I’m aware in the last 20 years directly related to mining coal underground.

    Lastly as far as the the economy this is boom for anthracite right now, the limited amount of coal that Schuylkill County is using is only a drop in the bucket before , itsonly going to effect a few people if anyone. The real loss will be at the expense of taxpayers.

    Lastly I’m sure many people reading this are thinking about big smokey stacks belching out plumes of black smoke. That’s simply not the case, anthracite burns with no smoke, hence the reason for double the cost of regular coal. It’s ideal for domestic heating.