The American can railroad industry is capable of hauling all the additional coal that would be mined in this country if President Carter's goal of increasing coal production by two-thirds is met, the president of the nation's largest coal transporter said today.
Referring to the President's speech Monday night, Hays T. Watkins, chairman and president of the Chrssie System, remarked: "One thing comes through loud and clear and that is that this nation has to depend on coal for its energy."
Watkins said coal had to be the main souce of energy in this country because it is the only energy raw material the United States has in abundance. He said Chessie had ordered 16,000 additional coal cars to two years ago in anticipation of increased demned and that 12,000 of these had already been delivered. "We're ready to haul all the coal that's produced," he said.
During an informal press conference after the annual Chessie stockholders' meeting, held in the roundhouse of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, Watkins said the problem was not the production and transport of coal but the restrictions on its use.
In his report to the stockholders Watkins said that Chessie, which operates in 13 northeast states, the District of Columbia, and the Canadian province of Ontario, had reported a loss the first quarter of the year but blamed it on the severe winter. He said the cold forced the slowdown of many operations and that coal which had frozen in the hoppers could not be dumped until it had been broken up.
Nevertheless, the company said it expects a good year and gave several reasons for this assessment. These include the continuing long term outlook for the growth of coal, the high volume of traffic moving over the Chessie lines, better business from the steel and automative industries from the generate about 20 per cent of the company's merchandise revenue, and what it said was "the assurance that railroads will continue to be essential to the nation."
On the matter of coal as an abundant energy resource the stockholders were told that there were almost 19 billion tons of "assured and probable resource of coal" in the Chessie System territory. The company estimates that at current rates of production this will be enough to last 230 years.It said more than half of this coal has a sulphur content of 1 per cent or less.
The shareholders rejected by wide margins proposals that would have forced the company to divide the jobs of chairman and president among two persons and to affirm the political nonpartisanship of the corporation. The board of directors had recommended rejection of both proposals, restrict its function and that the second was unnecessary since the company "complies fully with existing federal and state laws which limit corporate involved in political campaigns."