The Future In The Past

They opened a coal mine in Pennsylvania last week.  It’s the first new coal mine opened in the area in as long as people can remember.

The Corsa Coal Company decided to open the Acosta mine, located about 60 miles south of Pittsburgh, last August.  It made the decision to open the mine because demands for metallurgical coal used by the steel industry, and cuts in coal production in China, have caused the prices for such coal to skyrocket.  Metallurgical coal is a special kind of coal, distinct from coal used for other purposes, and represents about 5 to 10 percent of the coal industry.

1024x1024Even though the decision to open the mine came before the last presidential election, President Trump has touted the opening of the mine as reflective of the new approach taken to coal in his administration.  Corsa’s chief executive said that Trump’s election has made the whole coal industry more optimistic.  He said “The war on coal is over,” and added that “Easing the regulatory burden, lowering taxes, stimulating infrastructure spending, balancing out the interest of economic growth versus environmental policy — it’s very good for coal.”  Corsa believes that if it can keep its costs low, it can compete with any company in the world in coal production.

I view the opening of a new coal mine in Pennsylvania with mixed emotions.  The past practices of the coal industry have left real scars in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or West Virginia, both on the landscape and, in some instances, on people.  At the same time, I am happy for the people of rural western Pennsylvania who have been desperate to find work and some cause for optimism.  It’s no surprise that the new mine has been bombarded with hundreds of job applications for the 100 positions that will be created, and that the mine is being praised as a lifeline for the local economy.

It’s odd that, even though we have moved well into the 21st century, the American economy is still looking at things like coal mining — work that has been going on for centuries — as a element of future job production.  I just hope that the coal industry has learned from the past as it moves forward into the future.

At The Homestead

The Great Hall in the lobby of the Homestead

It’s spring break again at the Columbus Academy.  Last year, we decided to visit the Greenbrier for the first time.  This year, we’re checking out the Homestead.

The Greenbrier is in West Virginia and the Homestead is in Virginia, and the Homestead is a bit farther away from Columbus than the Greenbrier, but people tend to think of them together.  There’s a reason for that.  Both have the same historical feel, both started as resorts because of proximity to sulphur water, and both have the same impressive outside appearance and the same huge and beautifully decorated common rooms — at least, the ones we’ve seen so far.

We’ll be doing some exploring of the hotel and grounds, but right now we need to find a pub that is showing the NCAA games and get ready for some March Madness, Homestead style.

The Buckeyes Survive, And Move On

The Buckeyes beat Loyola (Maryland) tonight, 78-59, behind the studly play of Deshaun Thomas, who seemed to grab every rebound and get every put-back bucket.

The score isn’t important, and the fact that Thomas led the way isn’t really important, either.  What’s important is that the Buckeyes survive and move on — and that is what the NCAA Tournament is all about.  That is what last year’s Big Dance confirmed.  You don’t have to be the best team, you just have to survive by hook or crook in the game at hand and move forward.

The Buckeyes have done so tonight, moving past the Greyhounds and into the field of 32.  They did it even though their game started after 10 p.m., which is pretty ridiculous when you think about it.  These are college kids who just took exams, and purely because of money they start their national championship tournament after 10 p.m.  on a weeknight.  But that’s a posting for another day.

Next up for the Buckeyes is Gonzaga, which pulverized West Virginia tonight.  We’ll figure out later whether the Buckeyes match up well or poorly against Gonzaga — for now, the big point is that the Buckeyes are still alive, and so is every other Big Ten team that has played.  We’ll see how the Tournament goes, but right now the people who were saying the Big Ten was tough this year have a pretty good argument.

Coal Curse

The tragic mine accident that has killed 25 West Virginia miners and left another four unaccounted for and trapped far below the surface is just another reminder of the curse of coal.

In southeastern Ohio, eastern Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, coal is an abundant natural resource that has been a staple of the economy for more than a century.  It can provide power and heat and light and can help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  It can provide steady, good-paying jobs that cannot be exported overseas for people who do not have college degrees.  It can help to bring needed cash and investment to poor areas.

And yet, the curse of coal is that it is challenging to extract.  Underground mining poses risks of mine explosions, floods and collapses.  The linked CNN article includes a sobering chart of death tolls in American mining disasters, accidents,  and collapses.  Even more appalling is the coal mining safety record in China, where accidents seem to happen routinely.  Indeed, last year 2,631 coal miners died in mining accidents in China. Surface mining, which used to be called strip mining, poses its own challenges.  That method of removal of coal has had a profound environmental impact in southeastern Ohio, where strip mining — particularly in areas where early methods were used — left behind a grim, scarred, denuded landscape with tremendous erosion and surface water problems.  Many strip-mined areas have not fully recovered, years later, and many look as though they never will.

In Appalachia, coal is a blessing and a curse.

A Buck Back Update

We’re heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and I’ve reached a crucial point in the Buck Back.  I’ve netted 7 bucks so far and have two teams left — third-round selection Xavier and sixth-round selection Washington.  They both play tonight, so by the time the sun rises tomorrow I could be out of the Buck Back altogether, before we even reach the weekend.  That would be embarrassing.

Washington has a tough test, against West Virginia.  The Mountaineers are a balanced, athletic team that beat the Buckeyes earlier this season.  Xavier takes on Kansas State, a team that has flown under the radar in the tournament.  Both West Virginia and Kansas State are number 2 seeds.

Let’s go, Huskies and Musketeers!  Keep me in the hunt!

Edited to add:  Well, it happened as I feared, and the Xavier double-overtime loss to K State was particularly brutal.  And so this year’s Buck Back comes to a close with me finishing ignominiously $1 underwater.