January 6 Update Posts:
- Psst: Somebody Tell The New York Times What Happened to the Sago 12 (web page with Times’ Jan. 6 editorial still has a link at the bottom saying they were rescued)
- The NY Times and The AFL-CIO Futilely Attempt to Exploit the Sago 12
First, the obvious — The 12 deaths are an unspeakable tragedy, the families of the victims should be in everyone’s prayers, and any employer negligence that is found deserves swift and harsh punishment.
The blindly partisan blame-gaming without regard to the facts in this morning’s New York Times editorial is irresponsible. Here’s the worst paragraph (bold is mine):
Political figures from both parties have long defended and profited from ties to the coal industry. Whether or not that was a factor in the Sago mine’s history, the Bush administration’s cramming of important posts in the Department of the Interior with biased operatives from the coal, oil and gas industry is not reassuring about general safety in the mines. Steven Griles, a mining lobbyist before being appointed deputy secretary of the interior, devoted four years to rolling back mine regulations and then went back to lobbying for the industry.
How about the truth? Here is relevant data The Times could have easily accessed from the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration Coal Mine Fatalities page (chart created by me from raw data below):
Coal Mine Fatalities, 1995 -2005
Contrary to what The Times would have you believe, the trend has been favorable (“reassuring,” if you will) for many years, especially the past four, where there has been a near-50% drop in fatalities. In fact, these results support the contention that staffing Interior with people who actually know their industry has led to greater safety. And where was The Times when coal mine fatalities increased over 40% during the last three years of the previous administration’s arguable responsiblity (1999, 2000, and 2001, given that a new administration’s first budget and full implementation of its priorities typically does not occur until October of its first year in office)?
The New York Times’ opportunistic criticisms before the wakes have even taken place are way, way out of bounds.
Some Additional Perspective from China
China’s mining boom has been deadly, and real corruption is to blame (bolds are mine):
The Cost of China’s Energy Boom: Miners’ Lives
November 10, 2005
By Zijun Li
China’s coal-mining industry is among the most dangerous in the world, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,600 workers in the first half of 2005 alone. As accidents occur with alarming frequency, the country is boosting its coal production at the high price of miners’ lives. While the government has devoted efforts to improving mine construction, safety equipment, and education, the underlying cause of these disasters remains: China’s heavy dependence on coal as its top energy source.
As the world’s largest coal producer and consumer, China produced 1.96 billion tons in 2004, accounting for 35 percent of the world total. It also has the world’s worst safety record, registering 6,009 mining-related deaths in 2004â€”a fatality rate of nearly three persons per million tons. (Unofficial estimates are even higher.) In contrast, the United States, the world’s second largest coal producer and consumer, produced 1 billion tons in 2004 but registered a death toll of 28, a rate of only 0.03 persons per million tons. Overall, the coal mining fatality rate in the industrial world averages 0.4. Thus, China’s mining-related death rate is almost 100 times that of the United States and 7.5 times that of the average industrial country.
The immediate factors behind China’s coal mining accidents include a lack of safety equipment, rampant collusion between local officials and mine owners, and poor education among miners.
Maybe Times columnist Nick Kristof can stop making excuses for Mao long enough to comment on this.
Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.
UPDATE: Welcome Michelle Malkin readers (thanks to Michelle for the link)! Also, RedState’s Leon H has a good post on how the left blogosphere has been trying to push the “Bush doesn’t care about safety” meme.
UPDATE 2: Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics has more detail, including injury data. The trends in mining: DOWN.
UPDATE 3: More perspective from The Wall Street Journal (requires subscription): “We have come to believe that these kinds of accidents, with men trapped in a claustrophobic tomb full of poisonous gas, shouldn’t occur in 21st-century America — and happily they seldom do. These dozen deaths have commanded so much attention in part because mining accidents have become so rare. As recently as the 1950s, the coal mining industry lost 12 miners on average every week. Thanks to huge and steady investments in mine safety and technology, coal mining fatalities now average only about 30 a year — down from 1,000 a year in the first half of the 20th century. Injuries have been cut to 4,000 a year from 60,000. By contrast, China — which still uses primitive mining techniques and allows outrageous safety violations — has an estimated 5,000 or more deaths every year from avoidable mining accidents. Just last month, nearly 200 Chinese lost their lives in a coal mining accident in Henan Province — the third fatal Chinese coal mining accident in a week.”
UPDATE 4: More (will add to this as I find more) — Don Luskin, Anchoress, Second City Cop, Ace, Varifrank, The Kirk, S.O.B Alliance member Weapons of Mass Discussion, You Big Mouth You!, Mark in Mexico (who has a GREAT roundup), Super Fun Power Hour, Sublime Rage, Acerbic Recalcitrant (shameless stealing with attribution is welcome), The Right Politics, Mr. Eugenides, The Things You Believe You Are Seeing, Frank Warner (who goes back to the 1980s and notes that deaths also fell 50% during that supposed Decade of Greed), Cutting Edge of Ecstasy, Potbelly Stove, Curiouser And Curiouser, USS Neverdock, Glittering Eye, and Will the Spotter at MSNBC.com.
UPDATE 5: See my comments 14 and 17 for discussion of the impact employment and production might have had on fatalities. Quick answers: The fatality rate per unit of production HAS to be lower, because coal production hasn’t decreased at the rate fatalities have (in fact, production is probably a bit higher–UPDATE – this MSHA page, halfway down, indicates that production is up about 7% since 1995, and a bit less than 3% since 2000); and though employment has dropped during the time frame involved, fatalities per hour worked are still down an impressive 40% or so, the vast majority of it in the past four years.
UPDATE 6: The folks at Free Market Project point out two examples of unfair treatment of the coal industry in network news coverage — First, CBS’s passing off an industry critic as an unbiased expert; second, an NBC report that made a one-sided call for more regulation without presenting basic safety history.
UPDATE 7, Jan. 6: Coal miner headcount and fatalities by year since 1900 are here at the MSHA site.