An open letter to Independence Power and Light and the Independence City Council:

I wish to express my desire to see the city of Independence move away for fossil fuels as an energy source and invest in and develop renewable and sustainable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal.

Most are aware of the local impact the use of fossil fuels has on the environment – the pollution of the soil, water and air, which, according to some accounts, has contributed to an estimated 20 premature deaths, 30 heart attacks and 350 asthma attacks annually. These public health concerns have an associated costs upwards of $150 million in lost work days and in direct health costs. This is indeed a public health issue. (Source: Clean Air Task Force).

However, the impact goes beyond our city, state and even nation. If Independence continues to use fossil fuels – whether it be coal, oil or natural gas – we will be contributing to the polluting of the planet in other places as well. Some have suggested that we convert one of the plants to natural gas. This would increase the demand for natural gas and would spur the continued use of the process called fracking. Of course, this is a controversial issue, and not everyone agrees in regard to its safety. I find it quite difficult to believe that one can force water and chemicals into the Earth’s crust under high pressure, then recover it … then store the waste for an indefinite period of time …continually adding to the waste materials, without destabilizing and contaminating the Earth in the process.

Both coal and natural gas need to be extracted in ways that pollute the environment from which they are extracted. They both also must be transported some distance for local use. All of this contributes to pollution on a wide scale.

I would much prefer to see Independence join those who are leading the way to a new way of providing energy to their communities. Will it be more expensive? Probably, in the short term. But in the long term, it will be much more expensive to continue to consume fossil fuels. To continue to pollute the world, in which we all live and which we all depend upon for life itself, will bring greater and more frequent weather extremes, which will result in destruction of property and loss of life, more health-related costs and, because of the potential for loss of farm land, a reduction in the world’s food supply.

I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, but we need to make changes in the way we think about energy. I want to encourage Independence Power and Light and our city leaders to retire the two coal-burning plants by 2016 and to seek out opportunities to invest in solar and wind and geothermal energy sources and to encourage programs for residents to conserve energy via energy efficiency (efficient appliances, home weatherization and, when feasible, solar, wind and geothermal home systems).

If the right decisions are made today, I believe Independence can have a very bright future, both figuratively and literally.

I look forward to further dialogue via cyber, in person and in other forms of media, in the days, weeks, months and next few years to come.

Terry Flowers lives in Independence.