Now we know it's time to build a clean energy future.
I live close enough to Labadie Power Plant to see its triple smokestacks from my house in eastern Missouri. For many years the plant was a source of pride and security. Its electricity had connected us through the grid system, enriching our lives with its usefulness.
Now, I no longer have that sense of security when viewing the triple smokestacks of Ameren’s Labadie coal-fired power plant. Now I know about climate change and its principal driver — carbon pollution.
Now I know about dirty coal ash — full of arsenic, mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium and other dangerous toxins. It’s stored in unlined coal ash disposal ponds in the Missouri River bottoms. It’s made into concrete that is used all over our community.
Ponds leak, and eventually concrete degrades. These toxins don’t decompose. They accumulate each year that coal is burned. These pollutants can cause cancer and damage the nervous system and organs, especially in children.
Now I know about pollutant emissions from coal plant smokestacks. I am breathing dangerous sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants.
Several times a year my husband can’t breathe. He goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for an asthma medicine.
Particulate matter gets deep in our lungs and stays there. It can be absorbed into the blood and cause or exacerbate cardiovascular problems. SO2 and particulate matter can also trigger severe asthma attacks.
Electrical generation does not have to be this dangerous to our community. Solar, wind, geothermal, and energy efficiency are safer alternatives. If you factor in the climate costs and health cost of fossil fuels, it is clear that cleaner energies are the lower cost options.
What is stopping the transition? Money. Bets on dirty energy investments win when carbon pollution is free.
Fossil fuel industries make millions off of our health. And in Missouri Ameren, Peabody Energy and the rural electric cooperatives are powerful political machines.
So how will we transition to a safer energy future? I find the quote from Dr. Suess in "The Lorax" to be words to live by: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”
Organizations such as Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and 350.org are available to help educate and empower.
The EPA has begun the process of regulating the unlimited dumping of carbon into the atmosphere by our power plants, which emit nearly 40 percent of America’s CO2 pollution.
Missouri and every other state will be asked to develop a plan to reduce power plant emissions.
I encourage Gov. Jay Nixon to lead Missouri in creating a job-intensive, low-carbon plan that builds on our in-state abundant sun, wind and hydro-energy resources.
Juli Viel lives in O'Fallon, Mo.