Student group continues push for coal-free campus

Campus Beyond Coal rallied Tuesday outside Morrill Hall.

Adam Daniels

University of Minnesota group Campus Beyond Coal organized a theatrical rally Tuesday outside Morrill Hall in its quest to get University administration to publically announce a timeline for coal-free energy on campus. The demonstration featured a CBC group member in a gopher costume âÄúbaking cookiesâÄù with the UniversityâÄôs current fuel âÄúingredientsâÄù of coal, natural gas and biomass. The group called it the âÄúClean Energy Cooking Show.âÄù Coal makes up 30 percent of the fuel mixture burned at the Southeast Steam Plant on campus, the group said. CBC partners with the Sierra Club student coalition. According to the Sierra Club, the University is one of 60 campuses in the United States that still burn coal. This message to move away from coal is the theme of the Beyond Coal campaign as well as for Clean Energy Week, which kicked off Monday. While CBC acknowledges the success of other University programs such as the âÄúIt All Adds UpâÄù campaign âÄî which since 2009 has helped the University reduce energy consumption by 5 percent âÄî the group said the 38,740 tons of coal the University used in fiscal year 2009 was far too much. âÄúCoal is harmful, dirty and costly,âÄù said CBC President Siri Simons, an environmental science, policy and management sophomore. âÄúWe want details figured out of when getting beyond coal would be feasibly possible.âÄù What this argument boils down to is logistics. University sustainability coordinator Amy Short said the administration is working on this issue through assembling subcommittees, though the process is âÄútaking longer than expected,âÄù she said. Bruce Nilles, Sierra Club deputy conversation director and creator of the âÄúBeyond CoalâÄù campaign, said the best way to initiate change is to take a cue from other schools. âÄúUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell University are going off coal next year,âÄù Nilles said. âÄúThe administration of those universities made the proper choices to end their addiction to coal.âÄù Short said it is not clear if what worked for those schools would work here. âÄúIâÄôve only heard of one or two schools that have gone to climate neutrality, and theyâÄôve been generally smaller schools with fairly small programs,âÄù Short said. âÄúOur 5-percent reduction was bigger than [smaller schoolsâÄô] entire carbon footprint, so weâÄôre on a different scale than some of these other schools, and thatâÄôs one of the challenges we face.âÄù âÄúItâÄôs a question of vision,âÄù Nilles said. âÄúDoes the University of Minnesota want to be one of the last campuses to use this 17th-century method?âÄù âÄúWe know itâÄôs not possible to stop using coal tomorrow,âÄù Simons said, âÄúbut there are no immediate plans. We may need to get more aggressive in our argument.âÄù