Thoughts on Coal
We know very few people who
think of coal every day. Yet, coal is a big part of our everyday lives.
Most of the electricity we
use in Missouri is produced by coal shipped from Wyoming. Those coal trains
we see crossing our state never stop in their round trips to and from
the Powder River Basin. The cars are filled at the Wyoming mines and dumped
at Missouri power plants as the train moves ever forward.
Coal use in the United States
has tripled since our fathers shoveled coal into the basement furnace.
During that same period, pollutant emissions from coal have decreased
by one third.
Looking into this, we find
that this reduction has come about in large part because of huge investments
made to reduce smokestack emissions.
When we talk to those who generate
electricity, they tell us just how vital coal is to each of us. While
a few natural gas generating plants are being built, coal remains king.
Much more than half of our
electricity is generated by coal because it is a lot cheaper than natural
gas. Blending the coal and natural gas generating resources and adding
some hydroelectric power provides Missouri consumers with some of the
lowest-cost electricity in the nation.
Wind power, solar power and
other alternative energy sources will grow in use as research improves
their efficiency. Efforts to improve building materials, improvements
in home appliances and consumer education will all contribute to the more
efficient use of electricity.
The continuing move toward
alternative energy sources, advances in appliance efficiency and improved
clean-coal technology are in the pipeline of discovery. These new sources
and methods will bring about more progress toward a clean environment
than all the changes made since coal was used to fuel our home furnace
and kitchen stove.
Handing over a cleaner environment
to our children is an obligation that passes from generation to generation.
With enough coal to generate electricity for the next 200 years, the industry
will invest additional millions to make coal increasingly clean. At the
same time, we will work diligently to shape a national energy policy that
strikes a balance between a healthy environment and economic growth.
When our alarm clock wakes
us up. When we turn the lights on. When we perk our first pot of coffee.
When we shower. When we warm and cool our homes. When we watch the evening
news. When we preserve our food. When we use our computers. When we drive
by the hospital. When we drop the kids off at school. When we visit the
supermarket. When we go through these daily routines, we donÕt think about
the importance of electricity. If we did, and than thought about the major
source of electric energy, our thoughts would turn to coal.
Stork was executive
vice president of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.