Don't abandon the coal at our disposal
Does this picture depict the end of an era due to the influx of the gas industry? In my mental archives I can still see the locomotives pulling full coal cars along the Monongahela River, which was the watery highway for transporting the loaded barges of coal headed north toward Pittsburgh.
Although repugnant to most today, to me the smell of diesel, the dampness of a coal mine and coal dust itself was analogous to generating an income for many coal miners' families. I can still envision the Arkwright Preparation Plant's blue structure ascending the hill in Granville toward the entrance of the mine where the locomotives entered with empties and exited with full loads with a 4th of July type display of sparks emitting from the high voltage trolley wire.
The coal industry has enabled miners to provide food, clothing, shelter and an education for their families. My wife and I both benefited from our fathers' employment at Arkwright Preparation Plant and Osage #3 mine. They both endured the hardships of the coal industry -- coal dust, injuries, layoffs, etc. Before all the safety regulations were implemented there were many fatalities in the coal industry, which could possibly be attributed to taking short cuts to increase production. Although many abhor the unions, I believe that the UMWA was instrumental in providing safer working conditions, the absence of which was evident at the Upper Big Branch mine on April 5, 2010, in Raleigh County, the worst mining disaster since 1970.
I also witnessed first hand the dangers in the coal industry while building supports for conveyor belts as high as 60 feet near Clintwood, Va., and coal silos as high as 200 feet near Wheeling and Maidsville. In Clintwood, I observed many coal miners gathering at a motel at 5 a.m. to ride a bus to work. This was a melancholy scene. Their destination was named Widow Hollow. Some of the mines in that area were no more than four feet high. The residents of this area were proud of their heritage, and their other choice to earn income was a formidable avocation, making 'shine, which I did sample. I applaud the coal miner and deplore our dependence on foreign oil. After withstanding all the harsh working conditions for more than 30 years, I deplore the egregious treatment by Patriot Coal Company of the retirees and Obama's absurd War on Coal.
We do need to develop alternate sources of energy, such as wind, solar, battery powered cars, etc. I don't believe that the facile speaking skills of President Obama will expedite the process. Facilis descensus Averno -- easy is the descent into hell. Some would say that working in the coal mine is close to hell, but let's not abandon the one abundant resource that is at our disposal. Let's wake up, America, especially the politicians. It is better to do something and fail than to do nothing and succeed.
Mt. Morris, Pa.