Electric Companies Threaten Environmental Progress in Missouri

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Due to changing energy efficiency standards and other motions for clean, responsible energy usage, it would not seem wrong to assume that the state of Missouri is heading towards a more sustainable, environmentally friendly future. After all, new regulations requiring heating and air conditioning companies to meet new energy efficient standards by 2015 were passed in the last few months, in what seems to be a decisive step towards better practices for both companies and homeowners. However, with reports of public high school teachers being treated to a seminar on energy sponsored by utility companies, this progress may be hampered before it can begin making a lasting change.

According to the Huffington Post, 23 teachers were reportedly gathered at the University of Missouri on August 5 and 6 for a workshop titled “Energy in Today’s Classroom”. The seminar focused on the basic science of electricity, the sources and economics of energy generation and transmission, as well as facts on energy efficiency and conservation. However, many of the teachers present noted that at least one presenter claimed that most scientists are wrong in claiming that humanity has contributed to climate change.

Energy-efficient projects undertaken by the New York Power Authority are projected to save New York State taxpayers $4 million in 2014 alone.
Energy-efficient projects undertaken by the New York Power Authority are projected to save New York State taxpayers $4 million in 2014 alone.

This year’s seminar was the second annual meeting of the workshop, which is partially funded by the Central Electric Power Cooperative, a coalition of 8 independent electric utility companies serving 22,000 miles of central Missouri. The workshop is also sponsored by the Ameren corporation, a St.Louis-based company behind the largest power provider in Missouri, as well as Illinois’ largest power and gas corporations. Both the Central Electric Power Cooperative and the Ameren corporation produce a great deal of their electricity from coal, one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, as well as a major contributor to man-made climate change. As a result, it is perhaps unsurprising that one of the workshop’s sponsors remarked in a press release that the seminar came at a “key time”, and also referenced struggles energy producers have had with the Environmental Protection Agency “to maintain an all-of-the-above energy policy”. This policy, of course, includes fossil fuels.

The workshop’s syllabus was reportedly developed in collaboration with the Central Electric Power Cooperative and the University of Missouri. Teachers are sent home with materials to help them form lesson plans on energy for their classes. But while the course’s organizers stated that the presenters were “balanced” between academia and industry, some presenters did have more intense perspectives than others.

One of these presenters with intense perspectives was Dr. Anthony Lupo, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Missouri and an expert for the Heartland Institute, a think tank which promotes free market enterprises. A 2012 document leak revealed that Heartland was paying Lupo $9,000 a year for his services, as well as receiving funding from groups with fossil fuel interests. These donations were seemingly in response to Heartland’s practices of promoting climate-change skepticism in schools and presenting the problem as an unsettled controversy. Accordingly, Lupo’s speeches and writings often question the causes and consequences of climate change. His presentation at the Missouri University seminar reportedly focused on the same topics.

A representative for one of the Central Electric Power Cooperative, Co-Mo Electric Cooperative, directly stated that the workshop was designed to counteract a pro-environmental bend present in the modern educational system, as well as combat claims made by the EPA. However, at least one teacher present at the seminar disparaged Missouri University for aligning its academic resources so closely with private interests.

With public knowledge of environmental health clearly subject to corporate influence, it is questionable how Missouri will fare when compared to energy-efficient states like California and Arizona. For example, energy-efficient projects undertaken by the New York Power Authority are projected to save New York State taxpayers $4 million in 2014 alone. Additionally, the state has successfully reduced their carbon gas emissions by almost 14,650 tons a year, an amount equal to removing more than 3,000 vehicles from the road. By avoiding and complicating clean energy measures, Missouri may be wasting money and harming state land.

Fortunately, in spite of these efforts by Missouri energy providers, the state’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning contractors seem to be responding positively to new requirements that regulate their industry’s energy efficiency. While surveys from Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. find that many businesses are still uninformed about these changes, as many as 40% of commercial contractors and 42% of residential contractors in the North and Northwest of the state see upsell opportunities. Likewise, 30% of contractors in the South see a chance for increased revenues. These figures are promising, raising speculations on how these improved energy efficiency regulations might affect the 301,123 people employed in the United States’ heating and cooling industry, as well as the energy usage they help control.

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