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Communism Lite: Polish Citizens Queue For Days To Buy Coal Before Winter

polish coal

In Poland’s late summer heat, dozens of cars and trucks line up at the Lubelski Wegiel Bogdanka coal mine, as householders fearful of winter shortages wait for days and nights to stock up on heating fuel in queues reminiscent of communist times.

Artur, 57, a pensioner, drove up from Swidnik, some 30 km (18 miles) from the mine in eastern Poland on Tuesday, hoping to buy several tonnes of coal for himself and his family. [bold, links added]

“Toilets were put up today, but there’s no running water,” he said, after three nights of sleeping in his small red hatchback in a crawling queue of trucks, tractors towing trailers, and private cars.

This is beyond imagination, people are sleeping in their cars. I remember the communist times but it didn’t cross my mind that we could return to something even worse.

Artur’s household is one of the 3.8 million in Poland that rely on coal for heating and now face shortages and price hikes, after Poland and the European Union imposed an embargo on Russian coal following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Poland banned purchases with an immediate effect in April, while the bloc mandated fading them out by August.

While Poland produces over 50 million tonnes from its own mines every year, imported coal, much of it from Russia, is a household staple because of competitive prices and the fact that Russian coal is sold in lumps more suitable for home use.

Soaring demand has forced Bogdanka and other state-controlled mines to ration sales or offer the fuel to individual buyers via online platforms, in limited amounts.

Artur, who did not want to give his full name, said he had collected paperwork from his extended family in the hope of picking up all their fuel allocations at once.

The mine planned to sell fuel for some 250 households on Friday and would continue sales over the weekend to cut waiting times, Dorota Choma, a spokeswoman for the Bogdanka mine told Reuters.

The limits are in place to prevent hoarding and profiteering, or even selling spots in the queue, Choma said.

Like all Polish coal mines, Bogdanka typically sells most of the coal it produces to power plants. Last year, it sold less than 1% of its output to individual clients so lacks the logistics to sell fuel directly to retail buyers.

Lukasz Horbacz, head of the Polish Coal Merchant Chamber of Commerce, said the decline in Russian imports began in January when Moscow started using rail tracks for military transport.

“But the main reason for the shortages is the embargo that went into immediate effect. It turned the market upside down,” he told Reuters.

Read rest at Reuters

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