Anthracite Coal Supply for the 1981-82 Winter

EMD-81-141: Published: Sep 18, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 19, 1981.

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GAO studied the problems of energy supplies focusing on those affecting the anthracite industry and its consumers in the northeastern States, State and industry actions since the 1980-1981 shortage, and the outlook for the winter of 1981-1982. GAO obtained information on anthracite exports, Federal research and development efforts to use anthracite in industrial boilers, and actions that the State of Pennsylvania has taken to encourage the use of anthracite in municipal buildings.

Last winter there was an anthracite coal shortage which affected the availability of some sizes of coal. The extent of the shortage cannot be determined because a data collection system was not in place to determine the number of consumers affected and the amount of coal that could have been burned if it had been available. GAO believes that a shortage of anthracite equal to or greater than that which occurred last winter could occur again this winter. Like last winter, however, consumers who burn anthracite for central heat are expected to have the coal they need, but consumers who use supplemental heating devices may not be able to get as much coal as they want. Little can be done now to avert a shortage this winter. In order to minimize the possibility that similar shortages recur, the problems of identifying an elusive demand and stimulating production of the sizes of coal used in residential supplemental heating must be solved. The States need to coordinate their efforts to identify the demand for anthracite-burning supplemental heating devices and their annual cost requirements. There is a need to stimulate production. State and local governments could stockpile supplies to give producers an assured demand and pass the incremental costs of stockpiling directly and fully through to the consumer. However, the effect of the passthrough might reduce demand. Increasing the demand for the smaller sizes of coal would increase production and the availability of larger sizes of coal used in residential supplemental heating.

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