Coal-fired power plants: cheaper but deadly
February 26, 2006

Commentary by Simon Mahan, president, Sierra Club
Southwest Missouri State University
Springfield, MO

As children, we were taught that we will have to pay for our parents mistakes. No matter whether or not those mistakes could have been prevented, we still must pay for them. Now we stand at the threshold of another mistake that will be around for at least 50 years-the building of a third coal-fire power plant in Springfield. Coal is the most dangerous for energy production. Unfortunately, the people who have the power also believe that the only thing that matters is how much they pay for electricity.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest unregulated source of mercury pollution in the United States. Already, one in 6 women of childbearing age have levels of mercury in their blood high enough to put their unborn children at risk: that means, annually, over 630,000 children are at risk from mental developmental problems.Those 630,000 are the next generation. They are already paying for our mistake. How many more will have to pay?

Coal-fired power plants also emit fine particular pollution which causes respiratory diseases. According to Clear the Air, within a thirty mile radius of Springfield, there are over 5,400 cases of pediatric asthma. Those 5,400 are paying for our cheap electricity with their health. How much more will we make them pay?

Coal-fired power plants are the largest emitter of carbon-dioxide, a greenhouse gas that aids in global warming. Our two coal-fired power plants emit over 3 million tons of carbon-dioxide annually. NASA reports that 2005 was the hottest year on record, adding it to the list of the top 9 out of 10 hottest years being in the last decade. Drought has gripped the Ozarks, and it was the second hottest January in Springfield. While the Future Farmers of America have to deal with drought conditions here, the children of Tuvalu (a small island nation in the Pacific) will have to grow their crops in tin containers because glaciers have melted, sea levels have risen and salt water has seeped into their soil. Why should they have to pay for our mistakes?

Let’s build 45 wind turbines in Barry County. The Department of Natural Resources has already said that’s a good location. At a cost of $2 million per turbine, a $90 million project that will produce up to 90 megawatts will allow us to not make the mistake of building another coal-fired power plant.

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