Group aims to convince MSU to go anti-coal
A new MSU student group hopes to fuel a university commitment to move away from coal energy.
MSU Beyond Coal’s goal is to convince the university administration to commit to getting away from coal energy by 2015. The group started up about two weeks ago and has about 40 to 60 students involved so far.
It has collected more than 900 student signatures on a petition calling for MSU to be “coal-free.”
Calculating Coal Use
MSU’s T.B. Simon Power Plant is one of the top 500 coal generating plants in the country, producing up to 1.3 million pounds of steam per hour.
MSU’s power plant burns up about 250,000 tons of coal every year.
Coal energy provides 26.5 percent of the world’s energy needs and 41.5 percent of its electricity.
Source: MSU Power and Water, The World Coal Institute
The group is conducting a campus photo petition drive today as a part of its efforts. Canvassers will ask students to get their picture taken with anti-coal signs. Some say “I heart renewable energy,” others, “Keep MSU clean, be
Spartan green,” said Monica Embrey, MSU Beyond Coal’s campaign coordinator and a representative from the Sierra Club.
Todays petition drive falls on the Coal Ash Day of Action. The event calls for the
Environmental Protection Agency, or the EPA, to federally regulate coal ash as “hazardous material.”
Coal ash is a by-product of coal combustion.
“Knowing that each of us living in East Lansing is affected by the dangers of the coal plant is unacceptable, especially when we have the technology to make a change,” Embrey said.
Lynda Boomer, the energy and environmental engineer for the MSU Physical Plant said the university is making an effort to get away from coal.
“I would love to be able to get off of coal tomorrow. … But we’ve got to find an economically feasible source to take it’s place,” Boomer said.
Geology professor Warren W. Wood said coal production releases elements such as mercury, arsenic and selenium into the environment, which can contaminate the water supply and negatively affect health.
“The state of Michigan has enormous amounts of wind resources that have been underutilized as well as biofuel potential,” Wood said. “Believe it or not, right beneath you on campus is boiling water, which has a potential to be used as energy.”
Boomer said MSU is creating a bioprocessing plant to produce biofuels. Also, the next “fuel of choice” after coal would be natural gas, but it’s too costly.
“(It would be a) $20 to $25 million increase in the fuel cost for campus,” Boomer said.
Wood suggested that coal might be hurting Michigan’s economy.
“Michigan does not mine coal, so every pound of coal we import, we have to export money,” Wood said. “Renewable energy will profit Michigan.”
Emanuele Berry, a Residential College in the Arts and Humanities and journalism sophomore and volunteer for MSU Beyond Coal, said continuing to use coal energy is an excuse.
“It’s cheap and easily available,” Berry said. “Excuses aren’t enough. It’s not worth it to get the cheap fix right now. MSU has the potential to move off of coal.”