Ameren should be transitioning away from oil, coal to renewables

To the editor:

In considering the pros and cons of energy alternatives, an Oct. 3 letter printed here omitted significant information and hence stacked the deck heavily in favor of the coal-fired Ameren Missouri Meramec plant over wind and solar energy.

The letter’s asserted “cons” of wind and solar are challengeable on many grounds.

As one example, the suggestion that wind and solar aren’t really ready for prime-time, large-scale energy needs will come as a surprise to Germany, where renewable energy contribution to electricity production has leaped from 6 percent in 2000 to 25 percent in 2012, with more than half of that coming from wind and solar.

Closer to home, the city of Houston gets one-third of its power from renewables, largely wind, with plans to go to 50 percent in the near future. Yeah, Houston.

But more importantly, there was no mention of two big disadvantages of using coal-fired plants: the health and environmental impacts. The negative health impacts of coal use include significant numbers of premature deaths, heart attacks, hospital admissions, chronic bronchitis, asthma attacks and lost work days.

The complete list of adverse environmental impacts from the mining, preparation, combustion, waste storage and transport of coal is too long to give here, but include: acid-mine damage, which pollutes nearby rivers; mountain-top-removal mining, which destroys forests and can lead to major floods; loss and degradation of groundwater; acid rain; the release of toxins and heavy metals into the environment; huge water-consumption needs, second only to agriculture; and the release of greenhouse gases.

Coal-fired power plants are responsible for one-third of America’s carbon dioxide — CO2 — emissions, making coal a huge contributor to global warming.

I am not suggesting that wind and solar are the answer to all our energy needs.

A combination of fossil fuel and renewable energy will be in use for some time.

However, instead of satisfied complacency with the fossil fuel status quo, we should be actively transitioning away from oil, natural gas and coal to renewables.

This is particularly true with Ameren Missouri, whose fossil fuel use is twice that of the industry average.

Thank you for the opportunity to express my perspective on this issue.