Coal is making a return to the homes of many across the country as the price of heating oil has gone up. Some families stopped using coal in the past because it was a ‘hassle’ to handle. As a child I recall helping to crack coal into smaller pieces, filling buckets from the coal bin and carrying them inside to be burned, and even emptying the ashes that were left behind. As time went by coal started to become less popular as a heating source in many homes.
Maybe it was America growing lazier, maybe it became harder to get coal, or maybe it was just an inconvenience to have coal delivered.
In the anthracite region of Pennsylvania there once was hundreds of coal mines. There are now well under twenty, and more are fading away. Coal mines and their owners are regulated under laws, as is every industry. These strict laws, and the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA), starting putting independent coal miners out of business, some permanently. Mine owners and foremen’s were fined for many things, as this is a tightly regulated industry due to the dangerous nature of the business.
Then MSHA went even further. Mine owners and foremen’s started receiving jail time for minor violations. Many of these violations posed zero threat to the coal miners inside the mine, nor the community in which the mine was located. As regulations got stricter and stricter, the mines started to disappear. One such regulation was the government saying the mine had to have fans operating 24 hours a day, even if there was no one inside the mine. Such a regulation put dozens out of business. With electric bills at a mine estimated at $1,000 a month, adding another 12 hours per day of fan usage would drive many mines into bankruptcy. If they didn’t comply, they would face steep fines, or even jail time.
In the last few years the rising oil prices started to give the coal industry a little more of a kick in the profitable direction. Families that still had that old coal burner turned to the independent mines for financial relief from heating costs. The longer the oil prices remained high, the more it seemed that this is the perfect time to revitalize the coal industry.
Fifty percent of all electric supplied by power plants in the United States operate on coal. Not oil, not gas, but coal. There are many people out there that fight the coal industry and help to get stricter regulations and drive more coal mines out of business. I ask those people to think about their power plant the next time they flip that light switch, or turn on their television.
Coal varies in its quality, as does everything else. One ton of coal can potentially heat the same as 145 gallons of heating oil. A ton of high-grade anthracite can cost around $120 a ton in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. The equivalent in heating oil would be more than three times that cost. A higher grade of coal could cost more, but it would still almost always be at least half the cost of heating oil.
People across the United States are starting to think that using coal for heat could be worth the ‘hassle’ of the maintenance that goes with it. Technology has come a long way since I was a child, and most coal stoves these days would only require someone to empty the ashes a few times a week. Even at $150 a ton you are cutting your heating bill in half by using coal. Therefore, in a relatively small home, if you use two tons of coal this winter, at a total of $300, you will have saved at least $300 on your heating cost. That is the equivalent of approxamently $100 per month using a three month range for winter.
Breaking down even further would be a savings of about $25 per month, for a four-week month. Disposing of ashes should not take very long. For arguments sake we will say it takes one hour per week. Your savings are the equivalent of making $25 per hour, and most of us in the coal region make far less than that. The old adage ‘ a penny saved is a penny earned’ should be applied here.
In a time of recession, such as now, everyone is trying to pinch pennies. Using coal as a heating source can save more than pennies, especially if you live near an independent coal mine, or a coal breaker that offers home delivery. The scientists of the United States are working every day to make coal a cleaner fuel, and the government is working harder every day to shut down more mines. If the government keeps making outrageous regulations there will not be any coal to deliver because the independent mines will become ancient history.
We need coal. We need clean coal. We need the government to back off. Our coal miners know the risk they take every day by bringing our black gold to the surface, and they are happy to do it. It is a family tradition, and you will not find a tighter bond amongst any industry, as you will with coal miner’s everywhere. The pride of being a coal miner is very clear to residents of Pennsylvania, but it became even clearer everywhere earlier this year when Joe Biden actually lied, saying he was a coal miner.
The coal miners need their mines. For many of them mining is all they know. Coal mining is important to our region, our state, and our country, but it is important to our family heritage as well. I come from a line of coal miners, and am proud to be a coal miner’s daughter. My brother, my uncle, my cousins, and many other family members are victims of severe government regulation of coal mines. They are losing their livelihood, and their income.
You could save some money by going back to coal for your main heating source. See the sources below for more information related to the coal mines disappearing as a result of government regulation.