Coal Mining Songs

In the metabolism of the Western world the coal-miner is second in importance only to the man who ploughs the
soil. He is a sort of caryatid upon whose shoulders nearly everything that is not grimy is supported.

–George Orwell

Whatever the downsides of coal mining have been, Orwell was certainly correct about its importance to the building of our civilization.

And coal mining has also inspired an extraordinary number of good songs…indeed, coal seems almost up there with the sea as a source of musical inspiration.

Some of the songs that come to mind include…

Coal Tattoo, Billy Edd Wheeler

Dark as a Dungeon, Tennessee Ernie Ford

Coming of the Roads, Billy Edd Wheeler

The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore

Daddy’s Dinner Bucket, Ralph Stanley

Last Train from Poor Valley, Norman Blake

Paradise, John Prine

Coal Mining Man, The Roys


Dumb Company Tricks


When General Motors began outlining plans in 2020 to fully switch to electric vehicles, it didn’t account for one critical factor: Many of the battery minerals needed to fulfill its plans were still in the ground. 

“I remember seeing a report from our raw-materials team at the time saying, ‘There is plenty of lithium out there. There is plenty of nickel’,” said Sham Kunjur, an industrial engineer now in charge of securing the raw materials for GM’s batteries. “We will buy them from the open market.”

GM executives soon came to discover how off the mark those projections were, and now Mr. Kunjur’s 40-person team is scouring the globe for these minerals. 

Of course,  the Biden administration’s energy policy basically does the same kind of assuming, but in their case on the scale of the entire US energy infrastructure.

The Electrical Grid and the Gas Network

A recent report from the operators of the PJM Interconnect, the nation’s largest power grid, on the dangers of instability as wind/solar resources are added and plants with predictable/dispatchable output are shut down.  (Since I’m in PJM territory, this got my attention even more than it normally would have.)

Interesting analysis of the peak energy delivery by the US gas pipeline network (coldest days) compared with peak delivery by the electrical system (hottest days)

It strikes me that if the Biden administration…and various states & cities…are successful in reducing home demand for natural gas (initially for gas stoves, then for gas heating), one result will be the fixed costs of the pipelines being amortized over a smaller base of sales, resulting in higher prices–which will flow through into electricity prices and into prices for industrial products whose manufacturing requires gas, including fertilizers.