In his letter “The assault on coal” (Tuesday’s Steamboat Today), Karl Koehler let his politics get in his way. The greatest threat to coal, and especially coal mined in Routt County, is natural gas. There is an oversupply of natural gas that is forcing the price of gas down. With more drilling, the price will continue to fall.
To get coal out of the ground requires a large labor force and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. All gas requires is a hole in the ground and natural pressure. At the Twentymile Coal Mine, coal is handled at least three times and usually more before it is loaded on a train. Natural gas simply is piped into a pipeline. Shipping coal by rail requires a large labor force and expensive equipment. Shipping gas requires a pipeline under pressure and a small labor force. Natural gas can be burned in the same way it arrives at the power plant. Coal must be unloaded, stockpiled, moved out of the stockpile, crushed and then burned. After it is burned, the ash must be removed and buried.
The greatest threat to coal is basic economics: supply, demand, quality and price. Proposed EPA regulations are not the basic problem. For coal mines in Routt County to survive, they must find an economic response to natural gas; it is basic competition.