Commit to going beyond coal

The University of Minnesota still burns 38,000 tons of coal per year.

by Evan Giffin

Campus Beyond Coal applauds the University of MinnesotaâÄôs efforts to reduce its carbon footprint in recent years. This is another great example of realizing and confronting an issue head-on with innovation and leadership. It is with these achievements in mind that we believe the University is well-equipped and ready to take on the challenge of coal use on campus. During the Path to a Clean Energy Future panel discussion April 12, facilities management Associate Vice President Mike BerthelsenâÄôs comments implied there is no projected end to coal use on campus. Campus Beyond Coal is continuing to ask the University to make a public commitment and a plan to move beyond coal as soon as feasibly possible. Although great progress has been made in energy, there is a substantial way to go. The Southeast Steam Plant, which provides heating and cooling, burned 38,400 tons of coal last year. To put that in perspective, if you total all the coal currently being burned at University of Wisconsin campuses, excluding Madison, it equals roughly 38,000 tons of coal per year. Many of the true costs of coal cannot be seen on a spreadsheet. Consider the costs to mining towns that are decimated by irresponsible extraction and refining practices. Consider the increasing number of air alert days and their impact on those living with respiratory illnesses. Consider the mercury pollution in our lakes and rivers. The fact is, even with the best pollution controls, coal is dirty, and the problems it creates extend beyond carbon dioxide. Looking around the country we can see that a reliable energy mix need not include coal. Schools like Cornell University, Ball State University and the University of Wisconsin have already begun the transition to becoming coal-free. We are very pleased that a study of alternatives to coal will be part of the systemwide sustainability planning this year. It is for these reasons that we continue to ask President Bob Bruininks to make a public commitment to move beyond coal as soon as feasibly possible. Evan Giffin, University undergraduate student