Friday, August 7, 2015

Coal industry woes, 8/7/2015

Coal is the dominant cargo carried on most of the Ohio River. It's common to hear talk here in West Virginia about Obama's War on Coal or the EPA's War on Coal. My thoughts on that below.

The New York Times has run a short piece giving one writer's thoughts about the decline of the coal industry, looking at how market forces rather than government edicts have put a big hurt on the big coal companies.

From my perspective, the "War on Coal" has gone on in one form or another for at least forty years. In the late 1970s and into the 1980s, I covered several public hearings where someone wanted to build a coal tipple and the neighbors protested against it, from Clifton WV to Crown City OH to Haverhill OH and elsewhere. I also covered events regarding a coal dock in a residential and industrial neighborhood of Ironton OH.

A few years ago, I did a piece on how a lot of people in the Pacific Northwest view coal as a toxic material they don't want to see. That article was based on proposals to build coal ports on the Pacific Ocean to give Powder River Basin coal cheaper access to Asian markets.

Closer to my home, a few years back people in the Westmoreland neighborhood didn't want coal barges being tied up on the other side of the floodwall from them, but they didn't complain about coal trains going through their neighborhood 24/7. I always figured they got more coal dust from the trains than they would have from the barges, but what do I know?

Complicating that was the fact for part of that time I wrote editorials for the local paper. While I took two weeks of vacation one summer, someone wrote a piece saying the proposed coal dock would be bad for that neighborhood. I had no input into that editorial, but when I came back to work, I had to run with the stand someone else had taken. That's part of the sausage-making process known as local daily journalism. 

Ferry photos

There's nothing like being ready to turn everything off and go to bed when you remember you have laundry that has to be done tonight. So you dig into your recent archives and look for photos that will make three, four or five days of blog entries soon. Like ferries.

I got to visit three of the four Ohio River ferries this summer. The one at Cave-in-Rock, Ill., was too far away, but Sistersville, Augusta and Anderson were within driving range, so I shot a hundred or so photos of them for use in The Waterways Journal and The State Journal. Each publication bought one photo, so I have plenty left over. Some are utilitarian, some are human interest and some can be a bit artsy. Some, almost so.

So, my next theme week could well be Ferry Week.

Oh well, the laundry's ready for the dryer.