Regarding the letter “Coal burning byproducts OK if precautions are taken” (Aug. 1) : We live in a scientifically and technologically sophisticated society, and issues like energy policy should be informed by science. Thus, I was dismayed to read this letter from Dennis Jackson. The letter contains the nonsensical statement that byproduct waste is “released in the exhaust stream as gas and then into the atmosphere. Although, prior to this, there are scrubbers within these stacks that are supposed to filter this gas into water runoff.”
The only water runoff that results from combustion is what condenses from water vapor. No scrubber in the world can convert the mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the exhaust stream into water. More importantly, the health hazards associated with coal burning are related to the particulate matter that results from incomplete combustion. In the United States alone, more than 13,000 deaths and 20,000 heart attacks in 2010 were attributed to airborne particles from burning coal.
The beauty of science is that it can provide objective truths that can be used to guide decision making. You are free to say that you don’t believe in gravity, but you are still likely to get hurt if you step out a third-floor window. Responsible journalists strive to provide factually correct information to the public, and fact-checkers are an important part of the media ecosystem. The Post-Dispatch does its readers a disservice when it prints letters like the one referenced above that are scientifically unsound.
Peter Tipton • Columbia, Mo.