Jimmy Carter photo

West Frankfort, Illinois Remarks to Miners and Employees of Old Ben Coal Mine No. 25.

October 13, 1980

President Evans, Congressman Paul Simon, President Sam Church, also distinguished members of mine who are friends who've helped me understand better the opportunities and the challenges of the coal industry:

I'm particularly glad to have with us today Congressman Ken Gray, who, working with the UMW, is trying to establish the National Coal Mining Museum.

I just came through West Frankfort, stopped to shake hands with several hundred people along the streets, and remembered the Christmas of 1951, when the whole world was shocked to hear about the death of 120 brave coal miners. That is a tragedy which, I believe, is the worst of any mining disaster in the United States. And it reminds me, as President of our great country, of the great contribution that you make in providing not only for your needs and your families' needs but also the responsibilities of the operators and the Government to make sure that your working conditions are safe and healthy.

My voice today will go not just to this group but, through television, radio, and through the news media, throughout our country and throughout the world, and I particularly want the world to know what I have seen here this afternoon in the brief time that I've had a chance to visit with you.

The last time there was a crisis in the Persian Gulf, during the Iranian revolution, the world oil supplies were cut by about 4 million barrels per day. We had long gas lines and fears of worse, as you know. Today, as the war between Iran and Iraq continues, again oil supplies throughout the world have been cut roughly 4 million barrels per day, about the same. But this time our country has been ready. We are ahead of that crisis. And you've not seen any lines, and you've not seen the world brought to its knees by a temporary shortage of oil.

For the first time in a century, in history, America now has a national energy policy. It's working, and we're improving our energy security every day. We are showing that this country can produce more and discover more and conserve more energy and that we can use American resources, American knowledge, and American jobs to do it. Nothing illustrates this better than your industry—coal. America indeed is the Saudi Arabia of coal, and my goal as President of the United States is to see on the world energy markets Arab oil replaced with Illinois coal.

When I was Governor of Georgia a number of years ago, we made a basic decision, then and before, that our electric power would stick with coal as a major energy resource and not shift to oil and to natural gas. As you know, these two mines connected here where we're standing were originated in their concept basically because of orders from Georgia Power Company. So, I have a special deal with you—right?—as a Georgian, good customer, and also as President.

I'm proud that we've been able in my administration, with the help of people like Paul Simon, to do more for the coal industry than any other in the history of our country.

Domestic coal production will hit a record high this year. We will produce more coal in 1980 than has ever before been produced in the United States of America, exceeding 800 million tons for the first time. Before this year, you might be interested in knowing, we had never before been able to produce 17 million tons of American coal in any one week. This year we've had 15 weeks in which we've gone over 17 million tons per week. This is the first year in our history in which more than 50 percent of all our Nation's electricity has been produced from coal. Our exports of coal have hit an alltime high.

And we're just now ready to take a giant step, which we've not yet taken, that will be another tremendous boost for the coal industry, and that is our Synthetic Fuels Corporation. It will create a massive program for producing liquid and gaseous fuels from coal. We will provide, out of the windfall profits tax on the excess profits of oil companies, $88 billion in the next 10 years. About 75 percent of that will go as loans, loan guarantees, price and market guarantees to the private sector to build synthetic fuel plants using coal to get oil and gas from your coal, which will stimulate the demand for as much as 300 million tons of coal by the end of this century and 150 to 200 million tons of coal during the 1980's.

Over the past several weeks, we've signed historic agreements to finance and to guarantee the construction of synthetic facilities, including the SRC-1 in Kentucky, the SRC-2 in West Virginia, and the Great Plains Gasification plant in North Dakota. This year alone, getting ready to do much more in the future, we'll have over $1 billion spent on research and development on better ways to use coal. These demonstration plants, soon to be joined, as you well know, by others, will be among the largest and the best advanced facilities of their type in the entire world and will increase demand for coal by several million tons annually in just a few short years.

We're also mining and using coal more safely. We're finding solutions to environmental problems. We cannot afford to waste our natural resources. The American people have to accept coal as both a clean fuel and a safe fuel if we are ever to achieve our goals for energy security and for vastly greater coal use.

I'd like to give you a warning while I stand here, one very important. Do not let anyone convince you that the best way to produce and use more American coal is to eliminate air quality standards and water quality standards. That's the best way to turn the American people and the rest of the world against the use of coal.

What Sam and I have done together, as your president in both cases, is to try to make sure that all these projected increases in the use of coal are built on a quality environment, because if the American people ever are believing that the use of coal will destroy the quality of air and water, then they will turn against the use of coal. This is not necessary to do that, because we can have pure air, we can have clean water, and meet all these goals that I've just described to you for the rapid increase in the use of coal. With improved railroads, improved highways, improved loading facilities at our ports on the east and west coast and the Gulf area, there's no doubt in my mind that we can triple the production of American coal in the next 15 years.

I know that you're concerned sometimes because you hear false and misleading statements about the economic impact of the Clean Air Act. So, I have directed Doug Costle, who heads up EPA, to include a careful analysis of job impact with each proposal for any amendments that might come up when that Clean Air Act is renegotiated and repassed by the Congress next year. I will not propose any amendment to the Clean Air Act without full consideration of its effect on American jobs.

The Department of Interior has shown that the coal leasing program can proceed without compromising valuable public lands. The Office of Surface Mining has shown that sound management and reclamation practices can coexist with record production levels. The important goals of a growing and productive economy with jobs for all Americans and a healthy environment for all Americans can be served by careful study, full understanding of the complexities, and close consultation. Those who would dismiss lightly or deny the validity of either concern are simply wrong.

I might add here that since I've been in office, the last 2 years, with the help of Sam Church and the producers of coal, we've got a new era of harmony and understanding and consultation and cooperation between the operators and the coal miners. In the past about the only time when there was any conversation between the miners and the owners was when a contract was being renegotiated. Now there's a new spirit of protecting your interests on health, safety, working conditions, and waste levels, but at the same time a recognition that a steady supply of coal, dependable supply of coal is the way we build up customers in this country and overseas.

Just as we can no longer afford to waste energy, we can no longer afford to add untreated wastes to the environment. Just as we must conserve energy for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren, so we must conserve the environment. And we can do both, we will do both, at the same time.

A balance has also been struck, as I've said earlier, between coal management and labor. I believe that with my own commission, which I established to give me advice on what to do about coal, working with the Members of Congress from coal mining areas, with representatives of the UMW, and also with representatives of those who own and operate coal miles, we've reached a new level of cooperation unparalleled in recent history.

I believe that you recognize that coal production is not only good for you and your families, with a sustained income and a healthy life, but also to the economic and the national security of the United States. I've been working to increase coal production for 4 years, and I do not intend to quit until it's at a maximum, until your mines are all producing and America's miners are all working. And I'd appreciate it if you'd help me keep my job for 4 more years, too.

Thank you very much. God bless you all.

I might add one other thing that I forgot to say because it wasn't on my notes, and that is that later on this month we will have a conference at the White House, between the people that run the railroads, the people that operate the coal loading facilities in our port cities like Norfolk and Philadelphia and Baltimore and others, plus foreign buyers from France and Belgium, from Japan, plus UMW officials, of course, including Sam Church, and owners of the coal mines, to make sure that we plan for the long-range contracts for the delivery of American coal overseas. We are expanding that export opportunity as rapidly as possible, and I believe this bodes well for you and for the best interests of our country.

Thank you again for letting me add that postscript. God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 4:36 p.m. outside the mine company's headquarters. Prior to his remarks, he was given a tour of Old Ben Coal Mine No. 25.

Jimmy Carter, West Frankfort, Illinois Remarks to Miners and Employees of Old Ben Coal Mine No. 25. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251033

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