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Miami must strive to be greener

By Ben Stockwell and Tyler Elliott
On September 2, 2010

Last Tuesday, The Miami Student reported that the Farmer School of Business (FSB) is using half of the energy of comparable buildings on campus. While this is certainly something that should be welcomed and encouraged, it also must be met with skepticism as to what that means when we look at the larger picture of the green campus. While the new building saves the university money on East Quad, about a mile away, shoved into the farthest corner of the Western Campus, is a coal plant. Usually the plant doesn't produce energy (that comes from Duke, which also burns coal), it makes the steam that heats most of campus. The water coming from showers is heated by coal, and in the winter it provides heat to the radiators.

According to a Physical Facilities brochure, over 125 tons of the black stuff is burned every day at the plant. That's close to 50,000 tons a year, which is probably enough to fill the FSB over and over. The brochure calls what comes out of the smoke stack "clean gas," but let's not kid ourselves, there's nothing clean about coal. For one, truckloads of coal ash are taken away from the plant each day. This ash is not currently regulated, it gets in our water and food supply and it is thought to cause disease. In some places, like Meigs County, Ohio, the mounds of coal ash rival the size of the mountains.

Meigs County is home to Elisa Young, a good friend of ours. Elisa's home, a family farm going back seven generations, is neighbor to four coal plants in an 11-mile radius. The rates of cancer are incredibly high and employment is incredibly low. The people of Meigs County and places like it are paying a terrible price so that we can turn our lights on. Meanwhile, in West Virginia and Appalachia, miners are killed in explosions and collapses, the streams are polluted with carcinogens and mountains are leveled just to get to the coal so that plants can burn it, including the one on our campus.

If the higher-ups in the university are as concerned as they seem about promoting sustainability, then central to their plans must be to have a plan to stop burning dirty coal. The burners in the plant can already run on natural gas, which would be an upgrade from coal, but in the long run certainly not as clean as solar or wind power. Miami's investment in LEED certified buildings should come hand-in-hand with a real commitment to sustainability, closing the plant altogether and embracing an energy portfolio that is truly green.

Ben Stockwell

VP of Information, Green Oxford

Tyler Elliott

VP of Community Service, Green Oxford


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