An Epiphany – Sweet Home Alabama

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Beyond the Rhetoric 

By Harry C. Alford

The Coal Industry has been under attack since the beginning of the Obama Administration. The President has stated that “I want to kill coal.” Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said, “I want to put all of the coal workers out of business.” They have caused an immense amount of damage. An enormous amount of coalmines has closed and a noticeable percentage of coal companies are in bankruptcy. The economic damage is real and its affect will hurt our nation and bring growth and profit to foreign nations like China and India who will fill in the gaps left by our foolish actions.

It is depressing and I began to wonder if our coal industry is going to make it. This past week Kay and I took a tour in Alabama. It was sponsored by an energy group known as PACE (I have a board seat). This “Alabama Energy Tour” showed electric officials and others just how thriving the state is when it comes to energy resources. We went to the Warrior Met Coal Mine #7, the Miller Coal Power Plant, and the Nucor Steel Plant and cruised on the Megan Parker, a boat that pushes barges loaded with coal, operated by Parker Towing. On Saturday, we closed the tour by going to the Alabama vs. Texas A&M football game.

The Warrior Met Coal Mine #7 would be horrifying to many people. That is why Kay and I sat on the “sidelines” during this part of the tour. Participants were taken underground for over a mile into the earth. It was pitch dark and the only light was generated from the participants’ headgear. Once hitting the bottom, they went by car on tracks to the part of the plant that was being currently “clawed” for coal. Every now and then a transport would come and scoop up the clawed coal and deliver it to waiting rail cars for transporting to customers (plant facilities). After this 3 hour venture the participants returned and washed the coal powder from their necks and faces.

The coal would travel by railcar to local power plants, storage areas, steel plants and industrial facilities. Some trips would be a few miles away while others would go across the nation. This world has a very strong dependence on coal. Coal is essential to our way of living. If some politicians and activists think they can “kill coal” they are terribly mistaken. Eliminating coal from our nation will not stop the need for coal. We can make the by-products ourselves which will be the economical thing to do or we can buy it from foreign nations who have enough sense to produce the many bi-products and sell them to us.

Prepare yourselves for finding out all of the by-products of coal: methane (oven burners in your home), fuel, carbon dioxide, artificial silk, acetylene, soda water, briquets, sugar substitute, synthetic rubber, linoleum, TNT explosives, electrical insulation, sulfuric acid, street lighting, paint pigments, sulfur, smelling salts, fertilizers, baking powder, rubber cement, laughing gas, ammonia, electric plugs, food preservatives, fire proofing, carbolic acid, electric plugs, billiard balls, perfumes, medicines, moth balls, paint thinner, storage batteries, fungicides, storage batteries, insecticides, tar, insulation, paving, roofing, disinfectant, varnish, wood preservatives and gypsum (dry wall). Another by-product is steel by fusing coal carbon with iron ore. Clearly, there can be no America without the utilization of coal.

As you can see coal plays a major role in the American economy. Fortunately, gains have been made in the cleaning process, which makes our air cleaner at a growing pace. The Miller Plant Tour showed us how many of these by-products are produced and distributed throughout our nation.

The Nucor Steel Plant was equally informative. Pipes, rebar, steel sheets, etc. were being made right before our eyes. Iron ore and carbon coal were blended via extreme heat (we were in a plant with the average room air temperature of 130 degrees). It was simply amazing to watch the finished products. Facilities like Nucor have provided the materials to build America and will continue this great service during the future.

Coal is a vital component to our infrastructure and will remain a vital resource. God put it here for us to use and for hundreds of years in the future we will continue to produce with improvements and environmentally safe methods. If anyone doubts this, take a drive through your city. See the construction, cranes, contractors and the developments they are building. It could not have been done without coal.

As for the football game, it was simply a blast! Alabama remains undefeated and rated number one in the nation. It was a sight to see (better to be in). 105,000 cheering fans standing up most of the game. The citizens of Alabama have a great football culture and a fantastic reserve of energy materials.

Mr. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org.

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