Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Big Moving Hole

This is one of several blog entries that I set up to be posted while I am in Mexico.

As we get more and more into the alternative energy source discussions, coal is again coming into play. We have lots and lots of it -- anthracite coal is mined primarily in Pennsylvania, and bituminous (soft) and sub-bituminous coal in Wyoming. One estimate we heard was that a 500 year supply exists in the U.S. alone. Whether you are for or against the use of coal, the mining operations are huge in every sense of the word!

Last summer I toured an open pit coal mine in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. The mine was described as a "big moving hole" -- as the dirt is removed to expose the coal seam, it is dumped into the already-mined end of the hole to "reclaim" the land. In this way, the hole "moves" across the landscape, continually being excavated at one end and filled in at the other.

The hole is huge; the operation is huge; the machinery is huge; and the output is huge.

The coal in Wyoming is used to generate electricity in 36 states. After it is mined, it is loaded into railway cars -- 100 tons per car, and sent on its way south. We saw these same coal trains again when we got to Colorado as they meandered south, and once counted 120 cars on a single train. And there were several long, long trains moving through each day. That's a lot of coal!

Coal seam and one piece of huge equipment:


Where the train is loaded, and a train on the move:


1 comment:

Mary Persall and Jerry Persall said...

"Oh, Daddy, won't you take me to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
I'm soory, my soon, but you're too late in askin'
Mr. Peabody's coal train done hauled it away"

Jerry (who lives within a mile of the Colorado railroad tracks on which the cola trains come down from Wyoming on the way to the coal-fired power plants in Texas.)