Transition from coal plant toward clean energy necessary for greatness

Kayla Miller

Kayla Miller

SDSU is making great strides toward becoming a leading university in this region. Impressive construction on our campus, like the new dorms and Innovation Campus, shows that we are building for the future. Moving to Division I athletics is ambitious and rewarding, and to accommodate the needs of Division I football, a feasibility study is underway to explore how to improve and expand Coughlin Alumni Stadium.

All the progress happening at SDSU will propel our university to fill an increasingly important role in helping our state, the nation and the world. It is exciting to be part of the university community as our university pursues such a role. We need to look at the total SDSU picture if we truly are to reach for and attain greatness.

A contradiction in our aspirations to realize significant progress is the campus coal plant. Having a coal-burning power plant on our campus is inconsistent with the enlightened thinking and standards that define a progressive 21st century center of higher learning and cutting edge research. Coal is a highly outdated and polluting energy source.

Why must the SDSU coal plant be retired? First and foremost, coal pollutes, and it is unhealthy. Each and every step of coal use negatively impacts human health. Mining, transportation, washing, combustion and the deposition of coal wastes all contribute to pollution and diseases affecting portions of the population. These diseases include asthma, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Burning coal is ugly and toxic, and it produces undesirable emissions, including mercury and large quantities of carbon dioxide, as well as prodigious quantities of dirty waste. Health experts estimate that 23,600 U.S. deaths each year are caused by coal plant air pollution.

The SDSU coal plant uses about 8,000 tons of coal each year. The coal comes from Appalachia and is shipped by barge up the Mississippi to Minnesota and then by truck to our campus.Coal mining leads all U.S. industries in fatal injuries. But on-site, work-related injuries are only part of the risk to those working in coal mining. From 1992 to 2002, 12,000 coal miners died from black lung disease.

Coal is being phased out across the nation. More than 120 coal plant proposals have been canceled in just the last several years. Coal plants are being retired as improved energy conservation techniques and cleaner energy sources become available. Why can’t the energy solutions being created by SDSU engineers and the Innovation Campus be implemented on campus? The energy field offers unlimited opportunities for research and for making positive contributions to our world. SDSU can become a leader in clean, renewable energy. The university must start by figuring out a better way than coal to provide heat and hot water to its own campus.

If SDSU’s leadership is willing to invest time and creativity to undertake a feasibility study about how to improve our football stadium, certainly they can invest time and creativity to investigate how to improve energy sources serving the campus.

Our ultimate goal should not be to retain and protect the coal plant. It must be aimed at figuring out how to transition away from the coal plant and toward the use of clean, renewable energy sources. This is not an unreasonable objective. Instead of a challenge, we must view this as an opportunity 8212; an opportunity to promote healthier, more sustainable energy. An opportunity to continue to be a leader in the region. It can be an exciting and beneficial process that an institution like ours eagerly embraces.

Sometimes, achieving progress means dramatic change is necessary. Some people may reject the plan to change the football stadium, but the more common understanding is that change to this campus landmark is necessary because times have changed, and needs and expectations are different. In the case of campus coal, change is also important and necessary. While the coal plant is no landmark, it has its advocates. They must come to understand that we can do better than coal. Let’s commit ourselves to using energy sources that match the progressive ambitions of our university.

wlkerwllhjkghKayla Miller is president of the SDSU Sierra Club and a microbiology major.wlkerwl/lhjkgh