Commitment could give SDSU exponential benefits


Editorial Board

The Issue:

President Chicoine has refused to sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment.

Our View:

SDSU should agree with this commitment to further our goals to become a leading institution.

In the United States, the increasing fervor around becoming “energy independent”, “carbon neutral” and “green” is resonating beyond devout naturalists and fringe political groups. For most college-aged people, Earth-friendly messages have been pumped straight into our generation’s subconscious since the womb.

With oil prices shooting to record highs, those messages we’ve tuned out have now sprouted new ideas about our energy consumption and the effect we have on our environment. From the smallest local business to global corporations, all have started the immense task of changing our entire infrastructure.

The American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment aims to unite higher education facilities across the nation to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions and further the “green” cause.

This commitment contains steps to reach “climate neutrality;” many of which SDSU is already working towards. Projects like campus recycling and construction standards such as LEED Silver are already in place. However, President Chicoine does not plan to sign the commitment. Why? Our not-so-secret coal plant.

Housed in the middle of campus, the coal plant produces heat by burning coal. The process produces harmful greenhouse gases and will have to be replaced to comply with this commitment. According to President Chicoine’s executive assistant, Bob Otterson, signing the commitment and continuing to utilize the coal plant would be against the “spirit of the commitment.” He also says the price of coal is stable and lower than other fuels, like natural gas.

However, nothing in this plan tells SDSU to stop using its only source of heat and to dump its coal reserves. Instead, this agreement simply gives institutions a roadmap on how to become more efficient – both with energy and money. The “spirit” of this commitment isn’t just the immediate future, but a comprehensive guide to help our transition.

Financially, it makes perfect sense to continue burning coal in the short term, but new sources of energy like wind will become drastically more affordable.

By joining other universities like the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and the University of South Dakota, the table of discussion could expand and improve our knowledge and resources. Instead of moving forward alone, we could benefit from relationships with other universities.

We applaud the firm stance and foresight given by both the administration and groups like Project Sustainability SDSU. This campus can experience benefits beyond simply having a cleaner environment. However, this commitment can only help the transition. Our current goals to become “green” can benefit from this nation-wide organization. President Chicoine should seriously reconsider his position and sign this commitment to move SDSU forward.