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Beyond Coal plans to clean up energy at MU

By Mandi Cardosi
On January 27, 2011

Miami University may be getting a little greener as a new organization stakes its claim on campus in an attempt to curtail the university's coal use. Beyond Coal is a national organization that aims to get campuses nationwide to stop burning coal as an energy source. The Sierra Club, which sponsors the organization, expressed interest in coming to Miami to give passionate students a voice, according to the group's organizer, Todd Zimmer.

According to Zimmer, Miami's campaign is currently the fastest growing Beyond Coal campaign in the country. Zimmer said once Miami students were aware the campaign was being launched, they were anxious and excited to get the word out.

"Miami is a leader in many ways," Zimmer said. "It's a shame they're still burning coal on campus, so we're here to set a plan." Zimmer said the organization is divided into five subgroups: events, media, grassroots, coalition and visibility.

Miami senior Christian Adams is one of the campaign's event coordinators. He is in charge of planning protests, flash mobs, media awareness and anything else that might attract the administration's attention. 

Adams said he is excited to get the word out about Miami's coal use.

"I'm passionate about the coal issue," Adams said. "We want to get students working together to achieve a successful campus outreach."  According to Adams, Miami's coal burning facilities, located directly behind Peabody Hall, can operate on natural gas. However, Adams said this is a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

Miami sophomore and Beyond Coal media coordinator Tyler Elliott took his passion for the organization to the next level. Elliott said he spoke with Miami President David Hodge on the issue and was promised the university would be off coal within 20 years.

Elliott said he hopes the actions of the campaign will get the administration's attention and speed up that promise.

While the switch to natural gas would halt the emission of dangerous gases for the time being, Adams said the ultimate goal would be sustainable energy solutions like geothermal energy.

Both Adams and Elliott recognized Miami for coming up with small-scale projects to get the ball rolling on cleaner energy. Geothermal wells have been placed in Upham Hall, and a wind turbine was built on campus in fall 2010.

While Miami is acknowledging the problem, Beyond Coal hopes to take it to the next level and offer a permanent solution, Adams said.

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