Feb 15

Energy and Missouri’s Environment

Energy and Missouri’s Environment

Can We Have It Clean, Reliable and Safe At The Same Time?


(St. Charles, MO) – For most of us, our interest in state and federal energy policy begins and ends with the monthly utility bill. It stings when the electric or gas bill goes up and there’s a sense of relief when it’s low.

But there’s more to the debate in Jefferson City and Washington and it directly impacts that bill you receive each month.

In a new “Missouri Viewpoints”, Associated Industries of Missouri President Ray McCarty warns that increasing regulations won’t just impact your bill; it will impact our state’s ability to improve our economy.

MWSnap061To him, it’s not a matter of either/or. He thinks there’s room for both the new and the old in our energy portfolio.

“We want to continue to explore other ways to generate electricity, but I think it’s important to realize you can’t force technology through regulation and I think that’s what the government is trying to do here.”

He’s referring to the Obama Administration’s efforts to put stricter regulations on coal-driven power. Those efforts, McCarty maintains, will make it too expensive to build new coal-fired power plants. Coal is among the least expensive ways to generate electricity and most of Missouri’s electric power currently comes from coal.

“They’re trying to force power companies to use technology that hasn’t even been invented or proven yet.”

While the debate continues over the environmental impact of coal throughout the nation, McCarty argues against increasing regulations and says it’s personal to Missourians.

“This is very important to every consumer out there. In fact, the poorest consumers end up paying a higher percentage of their income in utilities…that’s less money they have to buy food and clothe their children.”

McCarty argues that environmental activists aren’t facing the economic realities in Missouri right now.

“Right now in Missouri, 82% of our energy comes from coal. Only ten percent comes from nuclear and five percent from natural gas.

“Environmentalists don’t like natural gas because of fracturing. They don’t like that process. They don’t like nuclear. They don’t like coal and, you know, it makes you wonder; are we all going to be grabbing candles to be able to see?”

McCarty says he’s not against renewable energy. He’s for it but believes that sector isn’t developed enough to be cost effective on a large scale.

Ed Smith is the Safe Energy Director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment and says cost should not be the only factor in the energy debate. In fact, he argues, Missourians are on board with using regulations to force changes to energy production.

MWSnap063“We should look at when it was put to the voters. In 2008, Missouri voters by 66% of the vote supported Proposition C, which was an increase in renewable energy mandated to investor-owned utilities like Ameren, Empire and KCP&L.

“That said they need to source 15% of their energy by 2021 from renewable energy.”

Smith says the debate should be about more than just cost and economy, even if changes mean higher utility bills.

“Right now, there is no limit on mercury toxic pollution from coal plants in Missouri. Not at the state level, not at the federal level…that’s one of those EPA regulations that the coal industry opposes, is putting a limit on mercury emissions and trying to capture them so they’re not causing health problems for the 21 million Americans that live around coal plants.”

Smith isn’t shying away from the argument over the impact of increasing energy costs through regulations.

“If energy process were the sole indicator of economic growth and bringing businesses to Missouri, why isn’t Silicon Valley in Missouri instead of California, where energy rates are significantly more expensive?”

While some call additional costs on energy dead weight on economic development, Smith thinks they can actually be an investment in Missourians’ health.

“We know that stopping health problems before they’re started is the cheapest way to make sure you’re saving money. So, making sure you have healthy air and clean water is incredibly important to the bottom line of everybody, including lower-income folks.”

On the web:

Associated Industries of Missouri www.aimo.com

Missouri Coalition for the Environment: www.moenviron.org

Permanent link to this article: http://missouriviewpoints.com/energy-and-missouris-environment/