America's Coal Economy

April 21, 1978

Report Outline
Coal's Post-Strike Future
Rise and Fall of King Coal
Long-Term Outlook for Coal
Special Focus

Coal's Post-Strike Future

Questions Raised by Mine Workers' Strike

The nation has returned to normal after the disruptions of the recent coal strike. But as the memory of the bitter, 110-day strike fades, serious doubts remain about coal's role in meeting the nation's energy needs. President Carter's National Energy Plan, now stalled in Congress, calls for greater reliance on coal to ease America's dependence on foreign oil. But many observers fear that Carter's goal of almost doubling coal production and consumption by 1985 is unrealistic, especially in light of the strike. “The problem of labor stability [in the mines] is causing some serious skepticism about added dependence on coal,” observed journalist Walter S. Mossberg shortly before the strike ended on March 27.

Even before miners walked off the job last December there were doubts about Carter's plan to double coal output to 1.2 billion tons by 1985. Many experts question whether the coal industry can find enough money, machinery and miners to support such a rapid increase in production. Analysts also doubt that the nation's transportation system — especially the troubled railroads — can haul the coal even if it is produced. Environmentalists worry that increased coal production will result in more air and water pollution problems.

Despite the potential problems, the administration remains committed to a coal-based energy strategy. The reason is obvious: coal's sheer abundance. According to the National Coal Association, coal represents 80 per cent of America's total energy reserves; oil and gas make up only about 8 per cent. The U.S. Geological Survey says there are at least 1.7 trillion tons of coal beneath American soil. Estimates vary as to how much coal is recoverable by current technology. The Interior Department's Bureau of Mines estimates that the “demonstrated reserve base” — coal deposits at depths similar to those now being mined — is 438 billion tons. “Recoverable reserves” — that portion of the demonstrated reserve base that can actually be mined under current technological, economic and legal constraints — are put at about 219 billion tons.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Coal Industry
Jun. 17, 2016  Coal Industry's Future
Jun. 24, 2011  Mine Safety
Oct. 05, 2007  Coal's Comeback
Mar. 17, 2006  Coal Mining Safety
Apr. 21, 1978  America's Coal Economy
Oct. 25, 1974  Coal Negotiations
Nov. 19, 1954  Coal in Trouble
Apr. 04, 1952  Coal Supply and European Rearmament
Jan. 22, 1947  Labor Costs and the Future of Coal
Jul. 24, 1935  Stabilization of the Bituminous Coal Industry
Jan. 01, 1929  The Anthracite Coal Situation
Dec. 01, 1928  The Bituminous Coal Situation
Jun. 30, 1927  The Bituminous Coal Strike
Aug. 15, 1925  The Bituminous Coal Problem
Aug. 01, 1925  Strike Emergencies and The President
Jul. 25, 1925  Miners' Wages and the Cost of Anthracite
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics