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An increasing rate of total energy consumption coupled with a decreasing rate of coal production shows very clearly that some other source of energy has been displacing coal. What that other source is will be clearer from Figure 34, which shows the percentage of the total energy supply from mineral fuels that was contributed by each source in the years under consideration.
Thus far we have been speaking of rates of growth without regard to the size of each item. A great increase in a small item may mean little. We have been accustomed to think of oil and gas as a small item in comparison with coal.
FIGURE 33.-Relative rates of growth of bituminous coal, oil and gas, water power, and total energy, 18791923. In recent years oil and gas and water power have enjoyed a rapid rise at the expense of coal. The total energy has not kept up entirely with the trend of earlier years, owing, perhaps, to the greater effi ciency in the use of fuel, but the figures are not far from what may be regarded as normal. Coal, however, has taken a downward trend. The diagram makes no allowance for changes in stocks of the fuels during the year; were such allowance made, the figures for 1923 would be smaller
This opinion was perhaps justified in pre-war years, when oil and gas furnished but 10 or 12 per cent of the total energy supply, but it will have to be scrapped now that in 1923 oil and gas had so far increased as to contribute 26 per cent of the total energy from mineral fuels (Table 9). In 1918 oil and gas contributed but 15 per cent of the total energy from fuels. To put it another way: In 1918 the heating value of coal was to the heating value of all oil and gas nearly as 6 is to 1; in 1923 the ratio was as 3 is to 1.
Water power, though it has increased since the war faster than coal, is a small item in comparison with fuel. Its contribution to the energy supply of the country is only 4 or 6 per cent as great as that supplied by fuels. The real competitor of coal therefore is not water power but oil.
TABLE 9.—Percentage of lolal heating value contributed by the several mineral fuels,
* No figures for water power prior to 1889 are available. Hence to make the figures comparable, the data for water power thereafter are expressed as percentage of the fuel total but are not included in the base on which the percentage is computed.
Less than 0.1 per cent. • Figures from 1869 to 1899 based on estimated quantity of coal displaced,
METHOD OF COLLECTING THE STATISTICS
The principal statistics for each State during the last three years are given in Table 2 (pp. 501-503). These statistics are obtained from the producers' written reports, most of them signed by officers of the companies that furnish the figures. The reports are collected by correspondence, which is supplemented by visits of field agents if correspondence has failed. The Geological Survey has no power to subpoena records or to compel the filing of reports or to punish producers for rendering false reports.
Under this system accurate results can be obtained only by the generous cooperation of the producers in furnishing returns voluntarily. The operators generally make cordial responses to the Survey's questionnaires, with which they have become familiar through more than 40 years of contact and cooperation, so that a very large percentage of the returns are obtained by mail, leaving relatively few to be obtained by personal visits.
Accurate statistics might not be obtained under a system of voluntary reporting if information was requested which the persons addressed were reluctant to furnish or concerning which they had a motive to misrepresent the facts. No questions of this character are asked by the Survey on its annual report forms, except possibly the questions concerning the value of the product and the occurrence of strikes.
In 1923, as in 1922 and 1920, a number of operators declined to state the value of the coal they sold. The number and the importance of these failures to make returns and the method used by the Survey in estimating the values not reported are explained on page 617. The possible errors in the returns dealing with strikes are discussed in Mineral Resources, 1922, Part II, pages 512-518.
The other questions asked by the Geological Survey in its annual schedule deal with the physical operation of the mines. The operators can obtain no advantage by concealing or misstating these facts, for the facts could be definitely ascertained from other sources, The operators' returns may be checked against the records of the departments of mines in States that commonly publish them and against the records of coal shipped by the railroads, which must agree in the aggregate with the reports made by the operators of coal tendered for shipment. These checks are sufficient to warrant public confidence in the substantial accuracy of the returns, subject to the limitations stated in presenting this report. Whether the voluntary system of reporting may be safely used as to inquiries concerning costs, prices, profits, and other financial matters is a different question. The Geological Survey has found it difficult, for example, to reconcile the statements of car supply voluntarily furnished by the railroads with the statements of time shut down for lack of cars voluntarily furnished by the mines, and it is aware that the current reports on time worked and lost by the mines published in its weekly coal statement contain very serious errors.
COMPLETENESS OF THE RETURNS A complete count of the thousands of wagon mines and country coal banks from which bituminous coal is dug in this country could be made only by sending agents up every creek and along every hillside in the coal-bearing regions. The cost of such a count would prohibit it, and in practice a limit must be set to the size of the mines to be considered. The Federal Census Bureau sets this limit at mines producing about 1,000 tons a year. Many of the States that publish statistics set the limit higher. The Pennsylvania Department of Mines, for example, covers only enterprises employing as many as 10 men.
The Geological Survey desires to ascertain the total output of coal from all sources, large or small, in order to find the rate at which the country's resources are being drawn upon. In practice, however, it has been found advisable to employ different methods for the commercial mines, on the one hand, and the country banks and wagon mines, on the other.
For the commercial mines statistics can be obtained largely by correspondence. To the mailing list new names are constantly being added from the trade journals, from the records of State mine inspectors, from reports of field agents, and from reports by the producers themselves. ‘At intervals the list is checked against lists kept by associations of operators or State officials and lists of shippers kept by railroad-car distributors. Every tenth year the list is further supplemented by the enumerators of the Federal Census Bureau, who canvass the entire country. In 1923 many new names were obtained from the field agents of the Federal fuel distributor and from the United States Coal Commission. Even after all this checking the list is not absolutely complete, but it is very nearly so.
Schedules of inquiry are mailed by the Geological Survey to all producing companies listed, and no company is dropped from the fist until it has been definitely accounted for. To follow up companies from which no reply is received by correspondence, cooperative arrangements have been made with State geologists and coalmine inspectors, field representatives of the United States Bureau of Mines, secretaries of operators' associations, and other local agents, who make inquiry in person and report to Washington. In the Rocky Mountain States the work of following up the returns is now done by the branch offices maintained by the Geological Survey at Denver, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco. Areas to which no permanent local representative of the Survey has been assigned can be covered only by sending out a field agent from Washington, and the present plans include regular work by such agents every year.
Some of the smaller mines are operated so intermittently that the owners can not be found at the end of the year, and recourse must be had to railroads to find the number of tons of coal shipped by these mines, from which estimates of the number of men employed and the value of the product can be made. Such estimates are made in order to round out totals, but only when the evidence shows that a mine was in operation during the year and when all other means of getting the exact figures have failed. Wherever in this report the inclusion of estimates introduces the probability of significant error, that fact is indicated.
The method just described is used in the canvass of commercial producers, including mines that make an output of at least 1,000 tons a year and that are operated rather steadily year after year. To handle the numerous sporadic wagon mines is a different problem and requires a different method. For several years the Geological Survey attempted to canvass these "small mines” also by mail, but the results were found not to be satisfactory. The Survey in 1920 and again in 1922 therefore turned to the railroads and asked for lists of all wagon mines that had shipped coal during the year, the date that each opened and closed, and the number of carloads shipped by each. The response of the railroads was instant and generous. The experiment showed that the only means of obtaining an adequate picture of the activities of wagon mines in a year of high prices is the records of the railroads.
In 1921, however, it was not considered worth while to ask the railroads for this information, because the profound depression in the coal market put the wagon mines temporarily out of business. For this reason, the statistics of production in 1921 do not include the output of wagon mines. .
In 1923 market conditions in the early part of the year favored the operation of wagon mines, and the Survey again obtained from the railroads the names of all wagon mines that shipped coal over their lines and the quantity shipped. The total number of mines thus reported by the railroads, eliminating names already on the Survey's list of commercial producers, was 2,384, and their total shipments in 1923 were 1,141,000 tons.
These methods are believed to yield practically complete returns for all mines, big and little, that ship by rail or water and for all those of commercial size that serve a purely local market. No attempt was made in 1923 to measure the product of country coal banks that did not ship by rail. Although the number of such banks runs into the thousands, their combined output is so small as to be negligible. Their product is sold locally, it does not involve the use of railroad cars, and it does not enter into competition with the output of commercial mines. When formerly the Geological Survey attempted to cover these producers regularly, the maximum output reported for them was about 1,000,000 tons a year.
No reports as to number of employees or time worked have ever been obtained from the wagon mines, and all the statistics of number of men employed, average days worked, and the like in this report are calculated from the returns of the commercial mines alone.
UNITS OF MEASUREMENT
The standard unit of measurement adopted for this report is the net or short ton of 2,000 pounds, but as Pennsylvania anthracite is mined and sold by the gross or long ton of 2,240 pounds, that unit is used in the part of the report dealing with anthracite. Unless the unit is otherwise expressly stated, the word “ton
ton” as here used means the net ton of 2,000 pounds, to which all other figures, however reported, have been reduced.
There is a steadily growing sentiment in favor of the general use of the net ton of 2,000 pounds as the standard unit of the coal trade, particularly for bituminous coal in the Eastern States, where both