US Mining Activity Enhanced by “Fracturing,” Coal Survival

April 18th, 2013 | by Morris Beschloss | Comments

When the U.S. Commerce Department publishes its monthly statistics regarding America’s resurgent industrial sector, little noted by the casual observer is the intensity of mining, a major support element comprising America’s world leading $2 trillion manufacturing “tripod,” comprising mining, industrial production, and electrical utility activities.

In addition to the massive shot in the arm that mining has been given by hydraulic fracturing, the activity increase of electrical utilities, still heavily dependent on coal, due to rising demand and the impasse in nuclear power expansion, have brought mining back to the forefront of America’s industrial comeback.

The dethroned “King Coal,” once considered the backbone of electric power generation, as well as the powering of iron to steel conversion, converting chemical derivatives into synthetics, plus a myriad of other consumer end uses, has been kept alive, despite the heavyweight assault by the Environmental Protection Agency and its association with excessive effluence in metropolitan areas over the years.

Although major cleanups of coal-associated production in such “smog-ridden” cities as Los Angeles and Pittsburgh have been accomplished, the evermore stringent demands by EPA and its “climatological purity” extremist assault troops, have demonized coal to the point of demanding its extinction. Even though the defense of long-term coal survival by such obvious advocates as Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and Patriot Coal by citing the evolution of this vital mineral into the clean coal category may be a stretch, the termination of former EPA head Lisa Jackson seems to have tempered the “bankruptcy” rhetoric emanating from that agency.

While coal still represents close to 40% of U.S. electric utility power generation’s resource, despite displacement by natural gas, worldwide demand for U.S. coal exports are maintaining their near-record intensity. With such coal mining states as Montana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania providing political clout, U.S. coal’s undisputed world reserve leadership seems safe for now.

What still is not generally known and appreciated is that along with coal, fracking has given the U.S. potential global dominance in the three major components comprising fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). Even though the U.S. has been considered the world’s unitary superpower since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, it never was even dreamed that this nation’s natural resource reserves were on the verge of eventually eclipsing the OPEC oil monopoly, or Russia’s natural gas clout over most of Europe.

With most of media focused today on America’s internal political quarrels, its inconceivable debt, and its mind-boggling technological breakthroughs, the nation’s relatively unpublicized mining subsector gives America both the natural resource leverage, plus the manufacturing power to keep the inflow of worldwide investment funds into U.S. Treasury debt and fixed assets. This is the outstanding yardstick by which a nation’s current and future wealth development are measured. That is why recognized global credit rating agencies still consider America AA+.

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