chapter  2
38 Pages

Innovation and Productivity in U.S. Coal Mining

This chapter reviews the record of productivity change in U.S. coal mining over the past forty-five years and speculates on the role of technology and other factors in shaping that record. I chose that extended time-span in order to encompass trends prior to, and following, an unsettling ten-year period, beginning in the late 1960s, marked by labor unrest and the impact of landmark health, safety, and environmental legislation. Unlike Chapter 3 of this volume, which discusses the petroleum industry and concentrates principally on productivity in the exploration for and development of new reserves, this chapter concentrates almost exclusively on coal extraction from given reserves, because the overall coal situation in the United States is one marked by vast, economically exploitable reserves-adequate to meet any conceivable volume of domestic and export demand far into the distant future.1