Bigelow Policy Coal Report - Executive Summary There is no...

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Executive Summary There is no question that the importance of coal in the United States and worldwide is crucial for the ever increasing global demand for electricity and has been the case since the mid- 1900s. Many practices have arisen since the process first began, like in every other industry, to become more profitable while increasing efficiency and effectiveness on a large scale. Since the 1970s a practice known as mountaintop removal (MTR) has arisen that has maximized both efficiency and effectiveness on a large scale. This method of coal harvesting consists of leveling entire mountaintops using massive amounts of explosives to access seams of coal deep within the earth and be harvested with ease using modern machinery. Although MTR has greatly increased the rate at which coal can be harvested (while eliminating the requirement for many manual laborers) it is viewed by many within and without of the industry as unethical. Since the practice of MTR began in the 70s environmentalists as well as other scientists have noticed significant destructive health side effects and occurrences of those who live near MTR sites. Increased flooding, poor living conditions, as well as health issues such as increased cancer and birth defects as a populace, kidney and liver failure, and even death from the overconsumption of selenium and other toxic byproducts that occur as a result of mountaintop removal. Patriot Coal Company will be a focal point throughout this report because they have been the first coal giant in the industry to announce that they will begin phasing out the practice mountaintop removal and resort strictly to underground coal mining and surface mining on a small scale. The future of this corporation is in a state of uncertainty due to the fact that it is currently under the protection of Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is barely profitable to shareholders, it is hard to tell at this point how the company intends to survive and if this announcement of ceasing MTR is simply an agreement reached in order to postpone the potentially inevitable truth that could de company desolation or if the coal industry itself is truly changing in attempts to be more ethical and social responsible to all of its stakeholders Introduction Since the mid-1900s coal has been a key component in the ever increasing demand for electricity however in recent years the industry has been shrouded in practices that are considered by many to be unethical. Patriot Coal, one of the largest coal mining companies, is in
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a state of financial struggle and bankruptcy; the company came to an agreement with a group of environmentalists regarding their methods of extracting coal. The main mining practice being questioned is known as mountaintop removal (MTR); this controversial method of mining involves leveling mountains using large quantities of explosives to access seams of coal. This practice drastically decreases the need for manpower in the mining industry but comes at a cost that will be described more in depth throughout this report.
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