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Vocapedia > Energy, industry


Commodities, Fossil fuels > Coal





Two mine rescue workers leave the Rhos community center

as emergency services and rescue specialists continue the operation

to rescue four Welsh miners that were trapped 300ft underground

after a coal mine tunnel collapsed and flooded

near the village of Cilybebyll, Wales on September 16.


All four died.


Photograph: Matt Cardy

Getty Images


Boston Globe > Big Picture > Coal

January 30, 2012

http://archive.boston.com/bigpicture/2012/01/coal.html - broken link















energy        USA










energy firms








utilities        USA

















fossil fuels        USA
























UK > coal        UK / USA























































UK > coal power        USA


















































podcasts > before 2024



















































































































































































































































































































Coal Miner to Trump:

“Coal Mining Isn’t Coming Back”

NYT    22 August 2018





Coal Miner to Trump: “Coal Mining Isn’t Coming Back”

Video        NYT - Opinion        22 August 2018

















Trump on the Economy in Coal Country

NYT    May. 6, 2016





Trump on the Economy in Coal Country



Donald J. Trump,

the presumptive Republican presidential nominee,

gave a dim view of the current economy during a speech

at the Civic Center in Charleston, W.Va.



By REUTERS | May. 6, 2016 | 0:50











coal        USA














west-virginians-could-get-stuck-cleaning-up-coal-industry-messes - December 1, 2023


epa-proposes-regulation-emissions-coke-plants - September 1, 2023




















article/coal-ash-georgia-power - March 22, 2021


in-environmental-fines - March 12, 2021

































watch?v=rCyD2a46rNk - NYT - 22 August 2018










































































































coal plant        USA


coal-ash-georgia-power - March 22, 2021








coal and natural gas-fired power plants        USA










burn coal to make coke,

a key ingredient for manufacturing steel        USA


epa-proposes-regulation-emissions-coke-plants - September 1, 2023








fossil fuels        USA










coal industry        UK










coal industry        USA














coal country        USA





















coal county        USA






coal jobs        USA








Big Coal        USA












U.S. Coal Giant Peabody        USA






coal town        USA






coal baron        USA






colliery        UK






Maltby colliery in South Yorkshire        UK






clean coal        USA






coal-fired station        UK






Drax power station in North Yorkshire

Britain's biggest coal-fired power station        UK
















World's biggest mine: Inside US coal

The Guardian    10 November 2014





World's biggest mine: Inside US coal

Video        Guardian Docs        10 November 2014


Barack Obama’s pledge to cut carbon emissions

has not stopped North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming.


In fact, production is booming

 and climate change is off the agenda.


The Guardian's Suzanne Goldenberg

gets a rare look inside the biggest coal mine in the world.


















mine        USA










mining        UK


























UK > coal mlne        UK / USA


janine-wiedel-vulcans-forge - Guardian picture gallery










mine / coal mine        USA
























coal mining        USA










mine explosion        USA










coal miner / miner        UK




































































coal miner / miner        USA











































National Union of Mineworkers        UK










safety laws        USA










buildup of methane gas        USA










tear through / explode









































































deadly mining disease

black lung disease / coal worker's pneumoconiosis        USA































advanced stage of black lung disease

known as complicated black lung

or progressive massive fibrosis        USA




















The last pit ponies

at Wheldale colliery, Castleford, Yorkshire in 1972


Buy a limited edition print

from photographer Don McPhee


Thu 12 Sep 2019    12.00 BST
















pit        UK




















underground tunnel        USA







dim light        USA






electric shovel        USA
















coal pollution        USA

























old coal-fired power plant        USA




















Three Welsh coal miners

just up from the pits after a day's work

in coal mine in Wales.


Location: United Kingdom


Date taken: February 1950


Photograph: W. Eugene Smith


Life Images
















UK > Thatcher Era > The miners' strike        1984






















Corpus of news articles


Energy, industry > Commodities >


Coal, Mining




A Part of Utah Built on Coal

Wonders What Comes Next


November 27, 2013

The New York Times



PRICE, Utah — For generations, coal has been the lifeblood of this mineral-rich stretch of eastern Utah. Mining families proudly recall all the years they toiled underground. Supply companies line the town streets. Above the road that winds toward the mines, a soot-smudged miner peers out from a billboard with the slogan “Coal = Jobs.”

But recently, fear has settled in. The state’s oldest coal-fired power plant, tucked among the canyons near town, is set to close, a result of new, stricter federal pollution regulations.

As energy companies tack away from coal, toward cleaner, cheaper natural gas, people here have grown increasingly afraid that their community may soon slip away. Dozens of workers at the facility here, the Carbon Power Plant, have learned that they must retire early or seek other jobs. Local trucking and equipment outfits are preparing to take business elsewhere.

“There are a lot of people worried,” said Kyle Davis, who has been employed at the plant since he was 18.

Mr. Davis, 56, worked his way up from sweeping floors to managing operations at the plant, whose furnaces have been burning since 1954.

“I would have liked to be here for another five years,” he said. “I’m too young to retire.”

But Rocky Mountain Power, the utility that operates the plant, has determined that it would be too expensive to retrofit the aging plant to meet new federal standards on mercury emissions. The plant is scheduled to be shut by April 2015.

“We had been working for the better part of three years, testing compliance strategies,” said David Eskelsen, a spokesman for the utility. “None of the ones we investigated really would produce the results that would meet the requirements.”

For the last several years, coal plants have been shutting down across the country, driven by tougher environmental regulations, flattening electricity demand and a move by utilities toward natural gas.

This month, the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the country’s largest public power utility, voted to shut eight coal-powered plants in Alabama and Kentucky and partly replace them with gas-fired power. Since 2010, more than 150 coal plants have been closed or scheduled for retirement.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the stricter emissions regulations for the plants will result in billions of dollars in related health savings, and will have a sweeping impact on air quality.

In recent weeks, the agency held 11 “listening sessions” around the country in advance of proposing additional rules for carbon dioxide emissions.

“Coal plants are the single largest source of dangerous carbon pollution in the United States, and we have ready alternatives like wind and solar to replace them,” said Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which wants to shut all of the nation’s coal plants.

“We have a choice,” he said, “which in most cases is cheaper and doesn’t have any of the pollution.”

Coal’s downward turn has hit Appalachia hardest, but the effects of the transition toward other energy sources has started to ripple westward.

Mr. Eskelsen said Rocky Mountain Power would place some of the 70 Carbon facility employees at its two other Utah coal plants. Other workers will take early retirement or look for different jobs.

Still, the notion that this pocket of Utah, where Greek, Italian and Mexican immigrants came to mine coal more than a century ago, could survive without it, is hard for people here to comprehend.

“The attack on coal is so broad-reaching in our little community,” said Casey Hopes, a Carbon County commissioner, whose grandfather was a coal miner. “The power plants, the mines — they support so many smaller businesses. We don’t have another industry.”

Like others in Price, Mr. Hopes voiced frustration with the Obama administration, saying it should be investing more in clean coal technology rather than discarding coal altogether.

Annual Utah coal production, though, has been slowly declining for a decade according to the federal Energy Information Administration.

Last year, mines here produced about 17 million tons of coal, the lowest level since 1987, though production has crept up this year.

“This is the worst we’ve seen it,” said David Palacios, who works for a trucking company that hauls coal to the power plants, and whose business will slow once the Carbon plant closes.

Mr. Palacios, president of the Southeastern Utah Energy Producers Association, noted that the demand for coal has always ebbed and flowed here.

“But this has been two to three years we’re struggling through,” he said.

Compounding the problem, according to some mining experts, is that until now, most of the state’s coal has been sold and used within the region, rather than being exported overseas. That has left the industry here more vulnerable to local plant closings.

Cindy Crane, chairwoman of the Utah Mining Association, said demand for Utah coal could eventually drop as much as 50 percent. “For most players in Utah coal, this a tough time,” said Ms. Crane, vice president of PacifiCorp, a Western utility and mining company that owns the Carbon plant.

Mr. Nilles of the Sierra Club acknowledged that the shift from coal would not be easy on communities like Carbon County. But employees could be retrained or compensated for lost jobs, he said, and new industries could be drawn to the region.

Washington State, for example, has worked with municipalities and utilities to ease the transition from coal plants while ensuring that workers are transferred to other energy jobs or paid, if nearing retirement, Mr. Nilles said.

“Coal has been good to Utah,” Mr. Nilles said, “but markets for coal are drying up. You need to get ahead of this and make sure the jobs don’t all leave.”

For many here, coal jobs are all they know. The industry united the area during hard times, too, especially during the dark days after nine men died in a 2007 mining accident some 35 miles down the highway. Virtually everyone around Price knew the men, six of whom remain entombed in the mountainside.

But there is quiet acknowledgment that Carbon County will have to change — if not now, soon.

David Palacios’s father, Pete, who worked in the mines for 43 years, has seen coal roar and fade here. Now 86, his eyes grew cloudy as he recalled his first mining job. He was 12, and earned $1 a day.

“I’m retired, so I’ll be fine. But these young guys?” Pete Palacios said, his voice trailing off.


Clifford Krauss contributed reporting from Houston.

A Part of Utah Built on Coal Wonders What Comes Next,






The Energy Challenge

Mounting Costs Slow the Push

for Clean Coal


May 30, 2008

The New York Times



WASHINGTON — For years, scientists have had a straightforward idea for taming global warming. They want to take the carbon dioxide that spews from coal-burning power plants and pump it back into the ground.

President Bush is for it, and indeed has spent years talking up the virtues of “clean coal.” All three candidates to succeed him favor the approach. So do many other members of Congress. Coal companies are for it. Many environmentalists favor it. Utility executives are practically begging for the technology.

But it has become clear in recent months that the nation’s effort to develop the technique is lagging badly.

In January, the government canceled its support for what was supposed to be a showcase project, a plant at a carefully chosen site in Illinois where there was coal, access to the power grid, and soil underfoot that backers said could hold the carbon dioxide for eons.

Perhaps worse, in the last few months, utility projects in Florida, West Virginia, Ohio, Minnesota and Washington State that would have made it easier to capture carbon dioxide have all been canceled or thrown into regulatory limbo.

Coal is abundant and cheap, assuring that it will continue to be used. But the failure to start building, testing, tweaking and perfecting carbon capture and storage means that developing the technology may come too late to make coal compatible with limiting global warming.

“It’s a total mess,” said Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Coal’s had a tough year,” said John Lavelle, head of a business at General Electric that makes equipment for processing coal into a form from which carbon can be captured. Many of these projects were derailed by the short-term pressure of rising construction costs. But scientists say the result, unless the situation can be turned around, will be a long-term disaster.

Plans to combat global warming generally assume that continued use of coal for power plants is unavoidable for at least several decades. Therefore, starting as early as 2020, forecasters assume that carbon dioxide emitted by new power plants will have to be captured and stored underground, to cut down on the amount of global-warming gases in the atmosphere.

Yet, simple as the idea may sound, considerable research is still needed to be certain the technique would be safe, effective and affordable.

Scientists need to figure out which kinds of rock and soil formations are best at holding carbon dioxide. They need to be sure the gas will not bubble back to the surface. They need to find optimal designs for new power plants so as to cut costs. And some complex legal questions need to be resolved, such as who would be liable if such a project polluted the groundwater or caused other damage far from the power plant.

Major corporations sense the possibility of a profitable new business, and G.E. signed a partnership on Wednesday with Schlumberger, the oil field services company, to advance the technology of carbon capture and sequestration.

But only a handful of small projects survive, and the recent cancellations mean that most of this work has come to a halt, raising doubts that the technique can be ready any time in the next few decades. And without it, “we’re not going to have much of a chance for stabilizing the climate,” said John Thompson, who oversees work on the issue for the Clean Air Task Force, an environmental group.

The fear is that utilities, lacking proven chemical techniques for capturing carbon dioxide and proven methods for storing it underground by the billions of tons per year, will build the next generation of coal plants using existing technology. That would ensure that vast amounts of global warming gases would be pumped into the atmosphere for decades.

The highest-profile failure involved a project known as FutureGen, which President Bush himself announced in 2003: a utility consortium, with subsidies from the government, was going to build a plant in Mattoon, Ill., testing the most advanced techniques for converting coal to a gas, capturing pollutants, and burning the gas for power.

The carbon dioxide would have been compressed and pumped underground into deep soil layers. Monitoring devices would have tested whether any was escaping to the atmosphere.

About $50 million has been spent on FutureGen, about $40 million in federal money and $10 million in private money, to draw up preliminary designs, find a site that had coal, electric transmission and suitable geology, and complete an Environmental Impact Statement, among other steps.

But in January, the government pulled out after projected costs nearly doubled, to $1.8 billion. The government feared the costs would go even higher. A bipartisan effort is afoot on Capitol Hill to save FutureGen, but the project is on life support.

The government had to change its approach, said Clarence Albright Jr., the undersecretary of the Energy Department, to “limit taxpayer exposure to the escalating cost.”

Trying to recover, the Energy Department is trying to cut a deal with a utility that is already planning a new power plant. The government would offer subsidies to add a segment to the plant dedicated to capturing and injecting carbon dioxide, as long as the utility bore much of the risk of cost overruns.

It is unclear whether any utility will agree to such a deal. The power companies, in fact, have been busy pulling back from coal-burning power plants of all types, amid rising costs and political pressure. Utility executives say they do not know of a plant that would qualify for an Energy Department grant as the project is now structured.

Most worrisome to experts on global warming, the utilities have recently been canceling their commitments to a type of plant long seen as a helpful intermediate step toward cleaner coal.

In plants of this type, coal would be gasified and pollutants like mercury, sulfur and soot removed before burning. The plants would be highly efficient, and would therefore emit less carbon dioxide for a given volume of electricity produced, but they would not inject the carbon dioxide into the ground.

But the situation is not hopeless. One new gasification proposal survives in the United States, by Duke Energy for a plant in Edwardsport, Ind.

In Wisconsin, engineers are testing a method that may allow them to bolt machinery for capturing carbon dioxide onto the back of old-style power plants; Sweden, Australia and Denmark are planning similar tests. And German engineers are exploring another approach, one that involves burning coal in pure oxygen, which would produce a clean stream of exhaust gases that could be injected into the ground.

But no project is very far along, and it remains an open question whether techniques for capturing and storing carbon dioxide will be available by the time they are critically needed.

The Electric Power Research Institute, a utility consortium, estimated that it would take as long as 15 years to go from starting a pilot plant to proving the technology will work. The institute has set a goal of having large-scale tests completed by 2020.

“A year ago, that was an aggressive target,” said Steven R. Specker, the president of the institute. “A year has gone by, and now it’s a very aggressive target.”

Mounting Costs Slow the Push for Clean Coal,






The Energy Challenge

Fight Against Coal Plants

Is Creating Diverse Partnerships


October 20, 2007

The New York Times



GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Richard D. Liebert turned his back against a hard wind the other day, adjusted his black cap and gazed across golden fields of hay. Explaining why he is against construction of a big coal-burning power plant east of town, Liebert sounded like one more voice from the green movement.

“The more I learn about global warming and watch the drought affect ranchers and farmers, I see that it’s wind energy, not coal plants, that can help with rural economic development. Besides, do we want to roll the dice with the one planet we’ve got?”

But Mr. Liebert, despite his sentiments, fits nobody’s stereotype of an environmentalist. He is a Republican, a cattle rancher and a retired Army lieutenant colonel who travels to South Korea to train soldiers to fight in Iraq.

He is also an example of a rising phenomenon in the West. An increasingly vocal, potent and widespread anti-coal movement is developing here. Environmental groups that have long opposed new power plants are being joined by ranchers, farmers, retired homeowners, ski resort operators and even religious groups.

Activists say the increasing diversity of these coalitions is making them more effective.

“You’re seeing a convergence of people who previously never worked together or even talked to each other,” said Anne Hedges, program director of the Montana Environmental Information Center, which is spearheading three lawsuits aimed at blocking construction of the power plant near Great Falls. “They’re saying these coal plants don’t make any sense, whether from an economic or environmental or property-rights standpoint.”

Power companies concede that anti-coal coalitions are indeed becoming more effective — and they describe that as a threat to the reliability of the nation’s electric grid. In their view, building more coal-burning power plants is the most realistic way to meet the rising demand for electric power.

“It’s clear new coal-fired generation is running into roadblocks,” said Rick Sergel, president and chief executive of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. “I don’t believe we can allow coal-fired generation to become an endangered species. We simply must use all the resources we have.”

Natural gas is an alternative to coal for electricity generation. But Mr. Sergel said the industry worries about relying too heavily on gas because it is far more expensive, prices have become volatile and a share of the gas supply has to be imported.

New nuclear power plants are on the drawing board, but they are many years from completion. And although energy conservation and efficiency, as well as renewable energy, will play larger roles in the future, they are not enough to meet the nation’s growing appetite for electricity, Mr. Sergel said.

The collaboration of former strangers — even enemies in some cases — to fight coal development is largely a Western phenomenon. While medical groups, city officials, environmental groups and others have banded together to fight coal plants near cities east of the Mississippi, the power plants in the West are largely in rural areas and thus directly affect farmers and ranchers living on the plains, the prairies and near the Rocky Mountains.

Government projections suggest that coal, which provides 50 percent of the nation’s electricity and a quarter of its total energy, will continue to dominate the nation’s energy mix, despite its environmental problems. As of last May, the Energy Department projected that 151 coal-fired plants could be built by 2030 to meet a 40 percent rise in demand for electricity, largely from soaring populations in Western states.

“Coal is still very much alive,” said Jim Owen, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group.

But opponents of coal plants are winning some battles. Reports from the government, the industry and environmental groups show that at least three dozen coal plants have been canceled or scaled back in the last two years.

Bruce E. Nilles, a lawyer who directs the Sierra Club’s national coal campaign, said his organization and collaborating groups had filed 29 lawsuits and administrative appeals against proposed coal plants. Aside from legal battles, the power industry said rising construction and labor costs and regulatory pressure were contributing to the cancellations.

Ranchers and farmers have featured prominently in several recent battles over power plants. In Jerome County, Idaho, for instance, Sempra Energy of San Diego had planned to build a large plant to burn pulverized coal. A coalition that included the Jerome County Farm Bureau, a dairy association, ski resort owners, other landowners, local politicians and environmental activists defeated Sempra. They also prompted a two-year statewide moratorium on such coal plants.

And in Iowa, a 77-year-old retired farmer living on the land his great-grandfather settled in 1879 has galvanized ranchers, farmers and environmentalists to fight plans by the LS Power Group of New Jersey to build a coal plant on his property.

In 2003, the farmer, Merle Bell, sold LS Power an option to buy his land. He said that even though he had doubts about the wisdom of coal plants, he thought he had little choice because the company was also purchasing an option on his neighbor’s land and said it would build the plant anyway. Mr. Bell later changed his mind. His coalition is pressing the Iowa Utilities Board to kill the plant, which also faces larger permitting hurdles.

“I grew up here,” Mr. Bell said from his home just east of Waterloo. “I rode ponies here. I farmed and raised cows, chicken and hogs here. A coal plant would be bad for the environment, and I don’t want to see it harm people living here and future generations.”

For many farmers and ranchers, protecting the land they till hardly means that they have become environmentalists. In fact, seeing environmentalists as potential allies and not enemies has been awkward for many of them.

C. J. Kantorowicz grows winter wheat on 6,000 acres near the proposed Highwood coal plant east of Great Falls. Last fall he joined other farmers in a zoning lawsuit against Cascade County commissioners to stop the plant. Until he went to an organizing meeting that another farmer, Robert Lassila, held at his house, Mr. Kantorowicz loathed environmentalists. So he winced when he was introduced to a pathologist who had started a local environmental group to fight the proposed plant. She came to talk about the public health and environmental risks.

“I think global warming is a hoax, and I hate to hitch my wagon to environmentalists,” Mr. Kantorowicz said recently in his living room after a hard day planting winter wheat. “I went to the meeting with the mind that I’d shoot holes in her story, her environmentalist’s view. But she and others convinced me they were right by being honest and answering our questions in detail about pollution and such.”

Robert Lassila’s son, Daryl, lives next door to his parents. He recalled some of the neighbors bristling when the meeting started.

“Many were looking at each other nervously and wondering who brought the environmentalists here and is there a back door to this place,” he said. “But they stayed put and here we are, together in this fight.”

For many farmers and ranchers, their aversion to coal is more pragmatic than philosophical. Their crops and livestock have been plagued by severe droughts and storms lately, and some wonder whether those are linked to global warming. Whether that proves to be the case, the strain on their finances has made them more interested in renewable-energy projects, like wind turbines, on their land.

Janyce and Leonard Harms, who grow wheat and millet in Hereford, Colo., near the Wyoming and Nebraska borders, last year agreed to allow eight towering wind turbines on their land. The turbines are part of the new 274-turbine Cedar Creek wind farm owned by BP, the huge energy company, and Babcock & Brown. The project is expected to churn out electricity for some 90,000 homes, mostly near Denver.

The Harmses, though a bit skeptical about coal plants, have not become involved in any battles. But they typify the fascination with wind energy that is sweeping rural America. They have received about $5,000 from the wind farm’s owners for leasing their land, and once the wind farm is fully operational by year’s end, they will receive at least $3,500 a year per turbine.

“We’re not environmentalists by any means,” Ms. Harms said as she gazed through her sliding glass door at the huge turbines spinning in the distance. “I see this as supplemental income. We’re getting older and we’d like to retire. This is a great deal, and the fact that it’s clean energy makes it even better.”

Fight Against Coal Plants Is Creating Diverse Partnerships,






Ministers act

to stop lights going out in 2015

· Threat of energy crisis sees nuclear go-ahead
· Coal-fired stations coming to the end of their lives


Wednesday May 2, 2007
Larry Elliott and Mark Milner


Fears that Britain could be plunged into an energy crisis by 2015 will result in the green light being given by Christmas for a new generation of nuclear power stations, senior Whitehall sources are indicating.

With more than a fifth of the UK's electricity generating capacity due to be closed down in the next eight years, ministers are planning to fast-track Labour's energy strategy with the publication of two white papers this month.

Sources said that the government would mount a full public consultation process over the coming months, after which a final decision will be taken. But ministers have been persuaded of the need to act quickly. "We are concerned that unless we act soon, the lights could go out in 2015 in the event of a really hot or really cold spell", said one Whitehall insider.

One of the white papers will argue that Britain needs a balanced energy portfolio, including nuclear, to meet its needs over the coming decade. The other is designed to speed up the planning system, allowing new power stations to be given the go-ahead within two to three years.

The government's energy blueprint will include plans for an expansion of renewable forms of electricity generation, but ministers believe there will still be a potential shortfall by the middle of the next decade. They are concerned that victory for the Scottish Nationalists in tomorrow's elections could sound the death knell for more windfarms in Scotland.

Consultation on energy policy, ordered by the courts after a judicial review earlier this year, will be relaunched at the same time as the white paper is published and the government hopes to be in a position to unveil its plans before the end of the year.

Britain is facing the risk of an "energy gap" over the coming years as ageing nuclear plant is closed down and a number of coal-fired power stations are due to stop generating by the end of 2015 at the latest because they do not meet the European commission's emission regulations. Two nuclear stations were closed at the end of last year and another six nuclear plants are currently scheduled to close between now and 2015.

At present Britain's generating capacity is around 20% higher than peak demand, which enables the system to maintain full supplies even if a number of power stations unexpectedly drop off the grid. Industry estimates suggest more than 20 gigawatts of generating capacity will be retired over the next 15 years and it will cost about Ł20bn to replace. Generating companies have tabled plans for around 20 megawatts of new capacity but while some have passed the planning stage others are barely beyond the drawing board.

According to the source the government is worried the comfort zone - the excess of supply over peak demand - will be eroded between now and 2015 and that, despite efforts to conserve energy, there is a real risk of power shortages.

Generating companies accept the need for new capacity, but are facing a number of uncertainties over what kind of capacity should be built. A number of clean coal projects are on the stocks but the big questions are the extent of the political commitment to nuclear power and what will happen to the price of carbon under carbon dioxide emission trading schemes.

Companies will be reluctant to commit to nuclear if they believe a policy of new build would be overturned by a subsequent government, while the price of carbon will be a key influence on the economics of the industry. A high price will encourage renewables and nuclear but a lower price would suggest gas and coal would remain top of the agenda.

The government has set a target that 20% of Britain's electricity will come from renewables by 2020 but the source said that was challenging and would become even more difficult if Labour were defeated in the Scottish elections.

The government is also concerned about the decline in output from the North Sea which is occurring more rapidly than earlier forecasts had predicted.

Ministers act to stop lights going out in 2015,







Taming King Coal


November 25, 2006

The New York Times


The front page of this newspaper’s business section recently featured two articles about the world’s most plentiful fuel, coal. Written from different parts of the globe, they framed the magnitude of the task confronting international negotiators and the newly empowered Democrats in Congress who want to put the brakes on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas.

One article pointed out that China will surpass the United States as the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide by 2009, a decade ahead of previous predictions. A big reason is the explosion in the number of automobiles, but the main reason is China’s ravenous appetite for coal, the dirtiest of all the fuels used to produce electricity. Already, China uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China, with enough capacity to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.

What’s frightening about this for those worried about the long-term consequences of warming is that nearly all of these plants are being built along traditional lines, burning pulverized coal to make electricity. And what’s sad about it is that there’s a much cleaner coal-burning technology available. Known as I.G.C.C. — for integrated gasification combined cycle — this cleaner technology coverts coal into a gas before it is burned.

These plants produce fewer of the pollutants that cause smog and acid rain than conventional power plants do. More important, from a global warming perspective, they also have the potential to capture and sequester greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide before they enter the atmosphere.

This new technology is not readily available in China, but it is available to utilities in the United States. Which brings us to the second article — an announcement by TXU, a giant Texas energy company, that it intends to build 11 new coal-fired power plants in Texas, plus another dozen or so coal-fired monsters elsewhere in the country. All told, this would be the nation’s largest single coal-oriented construction campaign in years.

Is TXU availing itself of the cleaner technology? No. TXU will use the old pulverized coal model. The company says the older models are more reliable. But the real reason it likes the older models is that they are easier to build, cheaper to run and, ultimately, much more profitable. So, like the Chinese, TXU is locking itself (and the country) into at least 50 more years of the most carbon-intensive technology around.

Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who will shortly assume command of the Senate environment committee, believes that we should impose a price on carbon emissions (as Europe has done) so that companies like TXU will begin to think about investing in cleaner technologies — technologies that China could then use in its power plants. The message from both Texas and China is that Ms. Boxer should get cracking.

Taming King Coal,






Survivor tells of Sago Mine ordeal


Updated 4/27/2006

11:28 PM ET


By Emily Bazar


The 12 men trapped in the Sago Mine tried to escape, pounded on metal bolts and plates to signal rescuers, then prayed together as their breathable air dwindled, the sole survivor of the blast says.

"We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate," Randy McCloy says in a letter to his co-workers' families.

In the only detailed eyewitness account of the tragedy, McCloy describes the hours after the Jan. 2 explosion, when "the mine filled quickly with fumes and thick smoke" and "breathing conditions were nearly unbearable."

The two-page typed letter, written from McCloy's description of the events, was presented to the miners' families privately by his spokeswoman, Aly Goodwin Gregg, on Wednesday. It was first reported by the Associated Press and confirmed by USA TODAY.

McCloy and his colleagues spent more than 41 hours inside the mine polluted with carbon monoxide before rescuers found them. He was in shock and a deep coma, suffering multiple organ failure.

After being hospitalized for nearly three months, he went home in late March and continues therapy.

McCloy says in the letter that the miners activated their air packs immediately after the blast but four didn't work. But J. Davitt McAteer, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin's adviser on the joint federal-state investigation of the explosion, said that the air packs, which were tested after the disaster, were operational.

The mining crew shared the oxygen, McCloy says. When they tried to escape, they were turned back by a wall of toxic air.

After pounding with a sledgehammer to alert rescuers to their location, they sat down behind a curtain they had erected for protection.

McCloy says the air behind the curtain got worse: "I tried to lie as low as possible and take shallow breaths."

One miner led the others in the "Sinner's Prayer," then several wrote letters to their loved ones. One by one, McCloy says, they lost consciousness. "One person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him," he says. "The room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else. I have no idea how much time went by before I also passed out from the gas and smoke."

Donnie Perry, sister of miner Alva Martin "Marty" Bennett, says the letter was comforting.

"I know my brother went to heaven," she says.

Survivor tells of Sago Mine ordeal,






Mine blast survivor says

some men's air packs didn't work


Updated 4/27/2006

11:30 PM ET


By Emily Bazar


The sole survivor of the Sago Mine explosion says some of the emergency air packs his fellow miners carried didn't work.

In his most detailed account of the Jan. 2 blast, Randy McCloy describes in a letter how four miners sought to share emergency air supplies with others trapped in the mine when it appeared theirs malfunctioned.

In the letter, McCloy refers to the emergency air packs, called self-contained self-rescue devices, as "rescuers." Each contains about an hour's worth of air.

"The first thing we did was activate our rescuers," McCloy says in the letter to the other miners' families. They received it Wednesday.

"At least four of the rescuers did not function," McCloy says. "There were not enough rescuers to go around."

Federal and state officials said the air packs, which were tested after the blast, were functional.

McCloy describes the mine filling quickly with toxic gas. "While methane does not have an odor like propane and is considered undetectable, I could tell that it was gassy," he says. The miners hung a curtain to protect themselves from the poisonous cloud.

In his own words: Survivor tells of Sago Mine ordeal

One at a time, they removed their air packs and took turns using a sledgehammer to beat on metal plates and bolts, hoping to alert rescue workers to their location.

"We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could," he says. "This effort caused us to breathe much harder."

Soon, the gas overwhelmed them.

"There was just so much gas," says McCloy, who shared his air pack with another miner. "As time went on, I became very dizzy and lightheaded. Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep."

When the air packs found with the miners were tested by government officials, "they were found to be operative," said J. Davitt McAteer, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin's adviser on the joint federal-state investigation of the explosion.

Some of the air in the packs that McCloy specifically referred to had been used, McAteer said.

"They were partly spent," he said Thursday. "They had worked for some period of time."

McAteer said he doesn't know why the miners thought the air packs weren't working. They're "complicated" to operate and the user has to pull a cord or blow into the device to start it, he said. "It's counterintuitive," he said. It's possible they weren't trained properly in how to use them, McAteer said.

Federal officials also said training may have been a factor.

"Those that were activated would have functioned properly," said Dirk Fillpot, spokesman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. "MSHA is looking at whether the miners received adequate training."

McCloy has not yet been interviewed by investigators.

The mine's owner, International Coal Group, issued a statement saying the air packs were all "within their manufacturer suggested life." The devices are inspected every 90 days and checked by the wearer every day, ICG Vice President Charles Snavely said in the statement.

Thursday morning, a section of roof at the Sago Mine, which reopened March 15, collapsed, according to federal and state mining authorities. No workers were in the area, and there were no injuries, MSHA spokeswoman Amy Louviere said.

MHSA launched an investigation and ordered that the area of the collapse be shored up with stronger metal bolts, Louviere said. There was no indication that the roof collapse was related to the Jan. 2 blast.







To the families and loved ones of my co-workers, victims of the Sago Mine disaster:

The explosion happened soon after the day shift arrived at the mine face on January 2, right after we got out of the man-trip. I do not recall whether I had started work, nor do I have any memory of the blast. I do remember that the mine filled quickly with fumes and thick smoke, and that breathing conditions were nearly unbearable.

The first thing we did was activate our rescuers, as we had been trained. At least four of the rescuers did not function. I shared my rescuer with Jerry Groves, while Junior Toler, Jesse Jones and Tom Anderson sought help from others. There were not enough rescuers to go around.

We then tried to return to the man-trip, yelling to communicate through the thick smoke. The air was so bad that we had to abandon our escape attempt and return to the coal rib, where we hung a curtain to try to protect ourselves. The curtain created an enclosed area of about 35 feet.

We attempted to signal our location to the surface by beating on the mine bolts and plates. We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time, we took turns pounding away. We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could. This effort caused us to breathe much harder. We never heard a responsive blast or shot from the surface.

We eventually gave out and quit our attempts at signaling, sitting down behind the curtain on the mine floor, or on buckets or cans that some of us found. The air behind the curtain grew worse, so I tried to lie as low as possible and take shallow breaths. While methane does not have an odor like propane and is considered undetectable, I could tell that it was gassy. We all stayed together behind the curtain from that point on, except for one attempt by Junior Toler and Tom Anderson to find a way out. The heavy smoke and fumes caused them to quickly return. There was just so much gas.

We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate. Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer. We prayed a little longer, then someone suggested that we each write letters to our loved ones. I wrote a letter to Anna and my children. When I finished writing, I put the letter in Jackie Weaver's lunch box, where I hoped it would be found.

As time went on, I became very dizzy and lightheaded. Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep, and one person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him. The last person I remember speaking to was Jackie Weaver, who reassured me that if it was our time to go, then God's will would be fulfilled. As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else. I have no idea how much time went by before I also passed out from the gas and smoke, awaiting rescue.

I cannot begin to express my sorrow for my lost friends and my sympathy for those they left behind. I cannot explain why I was spared while the others perished. I hope that my words will offer some solace to the miners' families and friends who have endured what no one should ever have to endure.

April 26, 2006
Randal McCloy Jr.

Mine blast survivor says some men's air packs didn't work,






Hundreds Express Grief and Faith

as 6 Miners Are Buried


January 9, 2006

The New York Times



BUCKHANNON, W.Va., Jan. 8 - West Virginians began burying their fallen miners on Sunday, mourning their losses but celebrating the lives and legacies of men who prided themselves on making a living by harvesting coal from deep within the earth.

In the mountain hamlets surrounding the Sago Mine, hundreds of mourners turned out for the funerals of 6 of the 12 men who died there last week. But the grief, sympathy and prayers extended well beyond the funerals, most of them private services from which reporters were banned.

White ribbons and bows adorned utility poles in Buckhannon, and dozens of roadside signs conveyed the somber mood. "Healing hurts," one sign said outside a doughnut shop here. One just north of town read, "God just got 12 new angels."

At the service for Jesse L. Jones, a 44-year-old miner from Pickens, the Rev. Donald Butcher, pastor of Sand Run Baptist Church, spoke the names of each of the 12 men killed at the mine and spoke of their way of making a living and making a life.

"You see, coal miners are a different breed of men; they don't have any fear," Mr. Butcher said to about 200 mourners at a funeral chapel just north of the mine. Miners, he said, give us electricity for lights as well as powerful lessons on working tirelessly, no matter the circumstances.

"God gives us people who are heroes, and we don't even realize it," he said. "We got lots of coal miners here with us today. America is great because of this profession and because of men like Jesse, who put their lives on the line."

The pastor spoke of one of Mr. Jones's grandfathers, who was killed in a mine explosion, and of members of his own family, one of whom lost his sight and others who lost their fingers mining.

The other miners buried Sunday were Alva Martin Bennett, 51; Jerry Groves, 56; David Lewis, 28; Martin Toler, 51; and Jack Weaver, 52.

At Sago Baptist Church, where inaccurate first reports of the survival of 12 miners brought euphoria that later turned to grief, the Rev. Wease Day stood in front of a huge picture of the Last Supper during regular Sunday morning services and tried to make sense of it all.

Wearing a blue tie with the face of Jesus on it, Mr. Day told the congregation, "The other night when we received what we all believed to be good news, we all shouted and rejoiced, but you know when the other news came it broke our hearts as well."

But, he said, God would never forsake his people and was with them throughout the heartbreaking ordeal even if they could not understand or answer the unanswerable questions.

"Many times people think, 'Well, it was God's fault,' " Mr. Day said, "but God has a master plan, and everything comes together in that master plan. He was in control every minute.

"We were in this building the other night and it came to mind that the spirit was so great here and it was so great outside and God had just covered these old hilltops with his holy spirit, his holy power."

After the service, the church bells rang 12 times, echoing through the mountains. Just down the road near the entrance to the Sago Mine, 12 black ribbons hung from a fence.

Even as the towns mourned their dead, people kept praying for the recovery of the sole survivor of the mine disaster, Randal McCloy Jr., 26. Doctors at West Virginia University Hospitals, where Mr. McCloy is being treated, said that he remained in critical condition Sunday night but that his heart, lung and muscle functions had improved.

Mr. McCloy was breathing on his own, and doctors had stopped sedating him.

At First United Methodist Church, the pastor, the Rev. Mark Flynn, told congregants that he had been with the families of the miners almost nonstop for three days.

"I went to Sago to minister to those families, and they ministered to me," Mr. Flynn said. "I was touched by the strength, the love and the wisdom. In those dark days and nights at the Sago Baptist Church, I saw some light. I saw light in the faith and love of the family members with whom I talked.

"Their faith was not just a vague notion that somehow everything would turn out as they wished. These people believe that they and their loved ones were in the hands of God, no matter what happened in that mine."

Hundreds Express Grief and Faith as 6 Miners Are Buried,










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