Rural Missouri Magazine

Thoughts on Coal

by Frank Stork

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.


Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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