March 14, 1913
Our state, situated as it is in one of the richest mineral zones in the world – outside of the precious mineral class – contains more bituminous coal than Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia combined, and ranks second in coal production but thirty-fourth among the states in the value of its manufactured products. It is a daily occurrence that a great bulk of raw material, shipped out of the state, is returned from the manufacturers of other states to be sold to our citizens after having been converted into finished products.
Again, we see train-loads of our coking and by-product coal shipped into other states to supply the great iron and steel industries, at prices that are not remunerative to our operators, and at the same time fixing a standard of wages for the miner that is an injustice to him, by reason of the long railroad haul to market.
Statistics will show that the coal industry of this state is anything but prosperous under present conditions. As a matter of demonstration, the United States government reports will show that Illinois coal is twenty per cent inferior in grade to West Virginia coal, yet in 1910 Illinois received $1.14 per ton .for her coal while West Virginia received only 92 cents per ton.
What does this indicate? Simply that Illinois has no long railroad haul, and, again, that she has factories to consume her own coal. The bulk of coal consumed in West Virginia is utilized by locomotives in carrying the raw material from our state to the manufactories of other states. This is strong language to use, nevertheless it is true.
Our state is the possessor of more than 300,000,000 tons of excellent iron ore. In petroleum we are fifth in order of production but first in quality; and as to natural gas, after wasting quantities amounting to many millions in value, we produce for the market more than one-third as much as all the other states in the Union.
We have limestone of the best quality in unlimited quantities which is adaptable to any purpose for which lime can be utilized. As to clays and shales for making brick and tile, we have them in quantities beyond estimation. In glass sands there is no limit to quantity and nothing superior in quality.
The ruthless destruction of one of the greatest forests in the world has taken place within our state. It has been reduced from its original acreage of fifteen and three-fourths millions to less than a million and a half.
But rich as we are as West Virginians in our natural resources, it is indeed lamentable to relate that more than eighty per cent of our fuel and raw material is utilized outside the state. If this condition is left unchecked, what will be the ultimate result to the state and its citizens?
What are we going to do? Are we to permit this injustice to go on without any restraint until it is too late? I wish to say that if my efforts can accomplish anything, these conditions shall not endure. It seems to me that all good citizens should be willing to enthusiastically join hands and turn the channels of this great natural wealth into a new channel that will enrich our own people instead of impoverishing them.