Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Inland Waterways and Bulk Commodity Transport. Coal Movements A Major Cargo Source Is Down

"Environmentalists" Are Up  And Destruction Could Again Be Nigh!

Updated 2/16/2020
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 The American River Navigation System of towboats and barges delivers more cargo in a single day than all of the steamboats collectively in the nineteenth century. The system is incredibly fuel efficient and offers serious competition to rail and truck transport for thirty three American states. Of course the competition is for time insensitive cargoes but the other forms of surface transport must compete. The towboat and barge system where available influences rail and truck rates that are measurably lower in those areas where all three forms compete. The most important commodities that all three modes compete over are bulk commodities such as grain, petroleum products including chemicals, construction aggregates, and coal. Historically coal has been a very important cargo source supporting the towboat and barge sector. Unfortunately for the American inland water transport industry, our "inland merchant marine", coal use is on the decline internationally.

 The declining market for Appalachian coal is causing some economic distress among those carriers who specialize in open hopper barge operations on the Ohio River System. The decline in coal cargoes places downward pressures on freight rates, upward pressures on costs and downward pressures on profits. The decline in coal usage appears to be a long term situation that is affecting not only the transporters but the producers.  Coal producer Murray Energy has laid off about twenty percent of its work force in 2016 The ecologically driven reduction in coal consumption has been force multiplied by falling prices for cleaner natural gas. It was estimated in 2015 that by 2016 natural gas will generate about fifty percent of American electricity,. IN 20 18 that prediction appeared conservative. The 2019 figures aren't in  yet. In 2010 the percentage was thirty percent. However, the Department of energy forecasts that coal's prices would stabilize by the end of 2015 somewhere between $68 to $87 per ton while natural gas is forecast to stabilize at around $3 or higher for comparable units in terms of BTUs. In the long term the DOE forecasted that the drop in coal consumption would level off and that new mines east of the Mississippi would make up for some permanently lost production in the Appalachian region.In 2020 we see that hasn't happened on a large scale yet.. 

 In the mean time Ohio River operators have to tighten their belts and the government and the public have to look at the situation sensibly and with some wisdom or we will repeat the loss of navigability that happened in the last few years in the Missouri River System. Before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started creating navigation and flood control structures on the Missouri River much of the system was a dry gulch in mid summer and a raging muddy torrent in Spring. After the construction of locks and dams the Missouri became a series of fairly stable "pools', lake like impoundments deep enough for commercial navigation and beneficial to fish and wild life. Bald Eagles began to thrive on the pool shores and fish proliferated creating a viable and growing sport fishing industry. After decades of both navigational improvement and environmental enhancement severe drought struck the Missouri valley. Grain cargoes, the mainstay of the Missouri River barge trade fell way off. River levels fell and the upper pools had to release some water to lower levels to sustain navigation. Shorelines spread farther out into the pools as the pools shrank. Recreational marinas suffered , the sport fishing industry declined. Farmers who had depended on the river for grain transport were going broke not from the unavailability of competitively priced transportation but from lack of a crop. The sport fishing industry demanded that the Corps of Engineers cease and desist releasing water to support navigation, for a system that temporarily had no cargo. Eventually the tree hugging fish kissing crowd managed to convince the Corps of Engineers to amend their system management plan to generally preclude water releases to support navigation. This is the rule today.
 The Missouri story is a useful example of how the modern environmental movement falls short of the marks set by the eclipsed conservation movement from the late nineteenth century and the earlier parts of the twentieth century when true wilderness preservation and multiple use infrastructure development was the rule. Multiple use infrastructure development often resulted , as was the case with the Missouri River in environmental enhancement. Developed as an inland navigational corridor the Missouri became an enhanced producer of fish and eagles. Today's progressive liberal led "environment movement" demands that rivers be "freed" of locks and dams. Environmental enhancement or mitigation in public works is seen as "interference with nature". Well excuse me, tree hugging, fish kissing liberal idiots ; but some of us  refuse to get off the planet. 

 If  we want to lead a civilized life we are going to have to farm and transport our produce. That is going to have an impact on the critters we share the planet with. The only sensible thing to do is to manage for multiple use and environmental enhancement / mitigation , the old conservation ethic. After the environmental movement of the 1960s added the word "environment" to our natural resources management lexicon, it did little else to improve matters , especially of late to enhance the environment. The Missouri River system is one of the most complete examples of the modern lunacy that results from letting liberals  lead the "environmental movement". First they attacked the very economic reason by which our Congress parted with the tax payers dollars to build a system that became an enhanced environment.  Having "won that battle" they now agitate for the removal of the infrastructure that created the enhanced environment which will result in a dramatic reduction in the bald eagle, and other fish eating raptor population, as well as migratory waterfowl,  If any of you see the wisdom in wrenching away the leadership of the environmental movement from the libtards who want to destroy both our economy and environment, join me in proudly flying "Return to Conservation" bumper stickers and reexamining the older , original conservation movement which protected the environment while acknowledging that humans are part of the earth's biosphere and have a right to be here. The Conservation movement would applaud the creation of new wilderness areas, but would never build infrastructure without environmental mitigation or even enhancement. Once completed, things like locks and dams that gave economic benefits but also enhanced the bio diversity and wild life productivity of an area were to be managed "in perpetuity" ; not attacked economically then destroyed physically. Wake up America, liberals are not qualified to run anything. They have never created anything except national socialists parties such as the NAZIS.  Let's take our land back, support CONSERVATION! Garden the earth don't evict the leading primates. 


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