Tuesday, August 11, 2015

America: Hub of Innovation - Coal Mining Edition

A 30-year-old mining technique is becoming all that’s keeping a group of U.S. coal producers from joining their competitors in bankruptcy.
Coal, already locked in a battle with cheap natural gas, now faces federal environmental rules that threaten to reduce its share of power generation to the lowest in 66 years. Companies from Illinois to Northern Appalachia are responding by leaning more heavily than ever on longwall-mining, a technology that’ll be used to produce a quarter of America’s coal this year, up from 19 percent in 2013....
“People ask me all the time, ‘What’s the new mining technology that saves coal?’” Jim Stevenson, director of North American coal for consultant IHS Inc. in Houston, said by phone July 31. “It’s the longwall. It’s the proliferation of this 30-year-old technology that’s keeping coal coming out of these basins.”
30-year-old technology, huh?  Well, not exactly:
The technology, which evolved in Europe in the 1960s and was improved in the 1980s, is emerging as a bright spot for an industry battered by sliding prices, environmental regulations and increasing competition from natural gas.
I'd love to know the number of "new technologies" that originated in Europe years and years ago.  It seemed like every article I read in Engineering News-Record that talked about a project using a new construction method mentioned how it had originated in Europe thirty years before.  For as arrogant as we are about how our unfettered capitalism unleashes amazing innovations, I just don't see it in civil engineering.  This is another example of that.

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