Tech Should Lead the Pack in Renewable Energy Ideas

22 03 2010

Here’s an article from the CT, written by Erin Moore:

For us Hokies, it comes naturally to take pride in every aspect of the Hokie Nation — academics, athletics and community.

And the recent steps our school has taken to become a leader in sustainability have only made us more proud of our alma mater.

However, how can we justify burning more than 42,000 tons of coal every year at our cogeneration facility on campus?

Virginia Tech is one of the top research institutions in the world, so why is it home to dangerous and polluting energy technology that is over two centuries old?

Mining and burning coal to generate power causes extensive and irreversible damage to our environmental and public health.

Considering that Appalachia, the heart of coal country, is home to Virginia Tech, this should be of high concern.

Right here in southwest Virginia, mountains, streams and communities are destroyed by mountaintop removal mining, and dangerous toxins are released into the air and water, causing asthma, cancer and birth defects.

Instead of spending millions of dollars trying to improve dirty coal technology, we should be investing in wind, solar and energy-efficient technologies that will secure our future. In the next five to 10 years, the costs of renewable energy will only continue to decrease, and the costs of coal will only increase as we start to run out of this resource.

Already, coal-powered energy costs on campus have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years. Can one really argue that continuing to use coal will protect us from increases in tuition?

The Virginia Tech Beyond Coal Campaign, a student effort working to transition our campus away from coal to 100 percent renewable energy, has significant support on campus.

The campaign has already been endorsed by 25 faculty members and nine student organizations, and more than 2,000 students have signed a petition.

We remain in need of President Charles Steger’s commitment to becoming a leader in clean energy and moving beyond coal.

In the last three months, several universities have committed to moving beyond coal, and even our ACC rival, University of North Carolina, has created a task force working to lower its carbon footprint.

If they can do it, why can’t we? It is worth noting that the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a public university larger than Virginia Tech, has already committed to switching to a mixture of biomass, natural gas and fuel oil by 2012.

We Hokies can be front-runners in solving the complex challenges of coal and energy.

This transition is possible and it needs to happen now.

This is an unprecedented opportunity for Tech to show the nation it is serious to “invent the future.”

It is now up to Steger to make the commitment to move beyond coal by 2020 and to help us become the leaders we knew we could become when we first chose Tech.

The following people contributed to this creating this column:

Robert “Bobby” Grisso, P.E.
Professor & Extension Engineer, biological systems engineering

Wolfgang Natter
Director of ASPECT Department

Shepard M. Zedaker
Professor, Department of Forestry

Matthew Vollmer
Advanced Instructor, Department of English

Steven Salaita
Associate Professor, Department of English

Jeff Marion
Adjunct Faculty member
Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, College of Natural Resources

Jeff Mann
Associate Professor, Department of English

Elizabeth Fine
Professor, Humanities Program Department of Religion and Culture; and Director, Department of Communication

Richard Rich
Professor, Department of Political Science

John Boyer
Instructor, Department of Geography

The article can be found originally here.

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