In Missouri, about 9 percent of the population has asthma, including my daughter, who, when she was 15, nearly died from an asthma attack. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the number of child asthma cases in the U.S. has doubled since 1980 and that direct contributors to this increase are coal-fired power plants.
While nationally the electricity use is about 40 percent coal, in Missouri 80 percent of our electricity comes from coal-fired power plants. All of the coal burned here comes from outside of Missouri.
Unsurprisingly, St. Louis has the 10th worst soot pollution in the nation. We must do something to address how our over-reliance on imported coal affects the health of our children. And actually, citizens did; in 2008 we voted overwhelmingly for the Renewable Energy Standard. The Renewable Energy Standard requires 15 percent of our electricity to come from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2021.
The standard would encourage development of new renewable energy projects within Missouri, reduce our disproportionate reliance on coal and create a cleaner environment for our children.
But House Bill 44, now moving through the legislature, would allow old, large hydropower facilities outside of Missouri to count toward the standard. This legislation would do away with any incentive to create new homegrown clean energy projects like wind farms and solar development within Missouri. Missouri residents deserve better than what House Bill 44 provides — we deserve new clean energy that makes the air we breathe cleaner too.
Arthur T. Klein is a Columbia resident.