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C. J. POTTER, Deputy Administrator
ESPITE most difficult wartime problems affecting the production
and distribution of coal during the past fiscal year, the American mining industry, backed by the Solid Fuels Administration for War, supplied the tremendous quantities required by war plants to turn out munitions and equipment to crush Nazi Germany and speed the defeat of Japan.
At the same time, the public, although pinched at times by winter emergencies and often having to use substitute fuels, has had enough coal to keep healthfully warm, if not always comfortable, and to maintain the wartime civilian economy at the highest level of any nation.
This is an achievement of which those who shared in it can be justifiably proud. It reflected the successful solution of many perplexing problems. It was the result of careful planning and control by the Solid Fuels Administration for War, of hard work and good management by the miners and the operators, and of cooperation between Government and industry. The coal industry performed an excellent war job.
The need for the careful, centralized planning of distribution, with adequate controls, was recognized early in the war. These activities comprised the primary function of this agency. Requirements were forecast a year ahead, production was estimated in advance, and basic distribution patterns were thus established. Industry representatives were consulted extensively in the formulation of plans and programs. The success of the entire war fuel program rested in large part, on their cooperation Controls and regulations were kept at a minimum, and industry was given the widest possible latitude. The Administration's controls modified normal distribution as little as possible. Modifications were required in fulfillment of the objective of doing everything helpful to early and successful termination of the war.
Under such a program, producers and industrial consumers alike could schedule their operations intelligently. Sound planning revealed probable difficulties in sufficient time to permit appropriate counter measures to be taken. Of course, all conditions could not be foreseen. Particular situations arose which required emergency bandling
including snowstorms, floods, fires, sudden changes in wår needs, and many other developments. But the over-all job of planning made it possible for such problems to be met with a minimum adverse effect on the general fuel supply and its distribution.
Even with many hard-won fuel battles of the war safely behind on June 30, 1945, a difficult fuel situation still existed. Germany's defeat did not diminish requirements appreciably, and the mines, which had been steadily losing manpower to the armed forces, to other industries and because of natural attrition, no longer had sufficient men to produce all the coal needed. Stockpiles, built up to unprecedented heights under Government leadership early in the war, no longer were adequate to tide the Nation over a serious production deficit.
In the United States, the solid fuels issue lay not in the lack of coal underground but principally in the steady loss of mine manpower. The heavy wartime drain, however, did accelerate depletion of the reserves of high-grade metallurgical and special-purpose coals, bringing nearer the time when the problem of their exhaustion must be met.
SOLID FUELS REQUIREMENTS
Because of the heavy pressure of war industrial demands and the increased financial ability of the domestic consumer to buy more fuel, soft coal requirements reached an all time peak of 626,000,000 tons during the fuel year which ended on March 31, 1945. This figure outstripped peak requirements of World War I by about 73,000,000 tons, although the situation is not entirely comparable as an index to recent wartime fuel needs, due to the great increase in fuel economy and the greater availability of other fuels during World War II.
Requirement figures for the new fuel year, beginning April 1, 1945, were initially placed at 600,000,000 tons, assuming that the war with Japan continued, reflecting anticipation of some decrease in industrial consumption under that of the 1944-45 fuel year and a 20 percent curtailment in the consumption of the eastern (districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 13) coals by households and other domestic users.
The fall of Germany caused little further downward revision in these estimates because war production needs for the defeat of Japan continued high.
The war caused shifts on the fuel front which made it necessary for the anthracite industry to take on an unexpected burden of a large number of new consumers when supplies of fuel oil, wood, and coke became short. Total hard coal requirements were estimated at 66,100,000 tons for the 1944-45 fuel year and the figure was increased to 67,000,000 tons for the 1945–46 fuel year. (The 67,000,000-ton
production would be required to supply the needed volume of domestic sizes.)
Byproduct coke requirements were high in the early part of the past fiscal year because of the continuing demands for manufacturing pig iron and steel. This placed a burden on anthracite in certain areas.
Industrial requirements decreased, however, from September 1944 to May 1945, due to general expectations of an early end to the war in Europe.
During the fuel year which ended March 31, 1945, approximately 60,372,821 tons of byproduct coke were shipped to industries requiring that fuel. The movement of byproduct coke to domestic consumers was estimated at 6,407,900 tons. Reclaimed beehive coke provided as an alternative fuel for consumers of scarce solid fuels during the year totaled 713,000 tons, and rescreened, byproduct coke, 147,000 tons.
Bituminous coal production in the calendar year 1944 was the largest of all time, totaling 620,000,000 tons. Production in the fuel year ending March 31, 1945, dropped to 610,000,000 tons, or about 10,000,000 tons below requirements, and estimates for the 1945–46 fuel year point to a maximum output of some 575,000,000 tons.
Production of anthracite in the 1944-45 fuel year totaled approximately 61,287,000 tons. Indications are that hard coal production in the 1945–46 fuel year will not exceed 55,000,000 tons.
The coal production problem, reduced to its simplest terms, was inadequate manpower aggravated by strikes. On April 1, 1945, an estimated 378,000 workers were employed at bituminous mines, the lowest figure in 43 years. Anthractie employment was put at 72,000, the lowest since the early days of that industry.
Trends at the start of the 1945–46 fuel year indicated that bituminous mine manpower would decrease an additional 19,000 before the end of that year, due largely to accidents, deaths, and retirements. In the anthracite mines, a further net loss of some 3,000 workers was expected.
The Solid Fuels Administration appealed vigorously but unsuccessfully for the release of adequate manpower from 30,000 younger mine workers in military service. By agreement with the Selective Service System, draft deferments were obtained for some 27,000 mine workers during the past fiscal year.
Recurrent strikes throughout much of the 1944–45 fuel year further retarded coal production. A strike which started July 3, 1944, at the anthracite mining properties of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal & Iron Co., near Shenandoah, Pa., cost consumers 500,000 tons of hard coal before it was terminated on August 23 after the Government took
possession. These properties were operated under Government possession until April 18, 1945, when they were returned to the owners.
Fostering increased mine output by every possible means, the Solid Fuels Administration for War assisted the industry in carrying out various incentive programs. In addition the Administration assisted mine operators in obtaining new equipment to replace worn out tools and machinery. The Administration aided in having roads constructed to new mine pits and stripping operations and helped retail dealers obtain tires for their trucks. Successful representations were made to the Office of Price Administration to obtain larger supplies of meat for mine workers, many of whom complained that they were unable to continue their work without increased rations.
COOPERATION IN LABOR MATTERS
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Production in bituminous coal mines suffered heavily in August and September 1944 because of a wave of so-called "supervisory” employee strikes. These started in the northern Appalachian mining districts and spread south, affecting principally the mines producing vitally needed special-purpose coals. In order to restore production, it was necessary for the Government to take possession of 72 mining properties, which remained under its control until February 24, 1945.
In the spring of 1945, the Secretary of the Interior, at the direction of the President, took possession of 272 soft coal operations and 354 anthracite companies to minimize losses of production due to strikes attending a break-down in wage negotiations. Possession of the mines was administered by the Solid Fuels Administrator for War until after the wage controversies were settled. When anthracite wage negotiations became stalemated, Secretary Ickes called the opposing parties together and suggested a basis for further consultations which resulted in an agreement. With these matters settled, all but a small number of mines that had been taken over by the Government subsequently were returned to their owners.
Estimated losses of potential production due directly to strikes in the 1944-45 fuel year were 13,835,000 tons of bituminous coal and 5,098,000 tons of anthracite.
DISTRIBUTION OF SOLID FUELS
With coal supplies falling behind requirements throughout the fiscal year, it was necessary for the Solid Fuels Administration for War to exercise controls over distribution in order to prevent interruption of vital war industries and hardship to civilians.
On August 1, 1944, retail deliveries of scarce Southern Appalachian bituminous coals were limited to 90 percent of 1943–44 receipts. A