Monday, October 17, 2005

BBC ON THIS DAY | 13 | 1992: Thousands of miners to lose their jobs

BBC ON THIS DAY | 13 | 1992: Thousands of miners to lose their jobs

The UK has gradually gone from 1 million coal miners 60 years ago to 12,000 today. Now another 31 inefficient mines will be closed. The rationalization process is no fun to entrenched workers in entrenched industries. America has shown that many new jobs will be created when non-productive jobs are eliminated. The whole country is better off.

Germany has not gotten it yet. Germany continues to subsidize its coal mines. Germany is throwing money down a rat hole and the unemployment rate continues to hover above 10%.

The new conservative chancellor may or may not make progress as she faces strong political opposition. In the mean time, those who continue to cry "the sky is falling" can take solace in the fact that there is coal being left in the ground in the UK because the current price does not make it profitable to dig in the deep mines.

Ironically, coal is being converted to liquid fuel (primarily synthetic diesel) more than any time since Hitler ran his panzer tanks off goal gas. The cost to convert continues to come down. In addition to operating plants in South Africa and China, plants are being built in Qatar by several major oil companies. Industrial processes around the globe are using various technologies to cut petroleum use.

The example I have repeated several times is that of Shaw Carpet Mills. For years, the company paid land fill operators to bury flawed products. Recently the company was able to perfect technique similar to the conversion technique of coal to liquid. The company has been able to dramatically cut its energy bill and it no longer has the landfill charges. The exciting news is that the gasification process allows polutants to be removed.

What a blessing in disguise for the thousands of miners who have lost their jobs. Many will find cleaner, safer and more satisfying jobs. The UK will reduce its energy costs and have the resourses to spend on productive activities.