Very interesting article from a Colorado paper about folks who are still heating their homes with Coal. Since they have a local coal mine producing what appears to be Anthracite coal they can buy it locally for about $100 a ton. Two tons is enough to heat their homes for the winter.
In most places $200 a MONTH is a more common heating bill especially in areas where electric heat is the only practical options… even if the electricity is generated using coal.
In the aftermath of a collapse or a solar EMP that takes out the power grid survivors in most areas are going to have to produce heat for winter and cold nights somehow. Burning wood is, of course, one option but most folks will discover quickly, as did the society of the 1700-1800s, that as population increases you burn wood faster than it can regrow. Eventually the remaining wood supplies are too far away to make cutting and transporting them practical.
Even today, after mining coal for hundreds of years there are still widely available sources of coal throughout the U.S. that can be mined without industrial equipment or deep shaft mining. When I left Alabama in the first few years of this century ones of the things I passed on the way out of town was a coal mine where they were mining a large vein of coal that was about 20 feet under the surface. There were long trains being filled which routinely delivered the coal to local power plants.
They were using industrial equipment to do the work but it could have been done with much less sophisticated methods as it was just after the Civil War when local Alabama coal was mined extensively to feed the growing steel industry in Birmingham.
Most people don’t think about coal at all anymore since their only exposure to it and knowledge of it is academic discussion about it’s use in power generation and how EVIL it is and how its very existence and continued mining will condemn all of the children of the world to a horrible death, disrupt the space time continuum and make your carbonated probiotic drinks go flat, etc., etc. I recently saw someone giving a presentation on a large screen TV powered by electricity about the evils of coal in a room heated by electricity with lights powered by electricity using a PA system powered by electricity… and all of that electricity was generated by a coal power plant north of town. The next time you watch a television program about the evils of coal you might stop and check whether the electricity you are using in your own home is, in fact, generated by a coal fired power plant. You might be surprised.
In the real world after a collapse people will be looking for heat source to keep themselves and their children from freezing to death in the winter. While wood will likely provide a temporary solution coal, with it’s much higher energy density, will quickly make a comeback in areas where it is easily accessible. It will likely also become one of the the first bulk trade goods as trading networks begin to grow and be reestablished.
Some foods are easy to transport but most have a limited life and will not be easily transportable over long distances. Trade in food will be local at best for a long time except for a few grain commodities and even those are delicate and easily damaged.
Coal on the other hand is a Rock. While it’s heavy it’s pretty robust. Even small amounts of coal could prove quite valuable. It’s use for heating, fueling steam engines, in smelting and metal working will make it one of the higher value commodities.
That value in turn will drive reestablishing rail networks, river traffic and other bulk transportation systems.
If you do live in an area where coal is mined and is relatively easily available it might be worth looking into what kind of coal fired stoves still exist in your area. You might run across an old coal fired stove in a flea market or second hand store out in the countryside. That’s one of those things that you might be able to pick up for a song, stick in a storage shed or garage which would be like a gift from God if the day ever comes when you need it.
p.s. I swear that guy in the lead picture in the article looks just like me.