UI officials: Eliminating coal not currently feasible


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University of Iowa President Sally Mason said she agrees with the UI Sierra Student Coalition's efforts to reduce coal use by the university. However, Mason told The Daily Iowan in a recent interview eliminating coal all together is not currently possible.

"I would love to. I think it's a good idea," Mason said. "Whether it's practical or feasible, it's about reducing debt."

The UI Sierra Student Coalition's goals are to completely stop coal use, and coalition officials said Mason's answer is insufficient.

Zach Carter, a cofounder of the coalition, said a response to their petition and work is necessary.

"Just sort of ignoring us is not feasible," Carter said. "It's not the response we're looking for."

Mason said she had not spoken with the group, but other UI officials have.

"I think I have been out of town when they were up here before," Mason said.

Carter said the coalition has spoken with UI Student Government about the possibility of a "green fee" — a fee added on for general green projects.

"It's putting [students'] money where their mouth is when they want sustainability in the future," Carter said.

"We have slowly, gradually, reduced our dependency on coal, and we are going to continue to do that," Mason said. "… what we can't do is promise you [a certain date] when we can be absolutely free of coal and not have it cost us a whole lot along the way."

Mason said officials saw operating on 40 percent renewable energy in 10 years as achievable, but said they plan on surpassing the goal.

"We knew it was both fiscally responsible and achievable, and my experience with the goals we set is we work really hard to overachieve," Mason said. "So that 40 percent would be at the low level."

Carter said the group is aware of the ongoing efforts, but the coalition is looking for more to happen.

"There are a lot of projects that cost the university project money," he said. "We're just trying to give a voice for more climate action."

Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability, said it is not possible for the university to immediately move off coal.

"We are doing it in a very planned way so that we can have a planned transition toward renewable energy," she said. "We do feel the goal is achievable."

Graham Jordison, the conservation organizer for the coalition, said other projects should not be considered more important then the university's use of coal— specifically the flood recovery.

"We have had several scientists deliver letters to [Gov. Terry] Branstad that climate change is going on in Iowa," he said. "Here we are addressing the flood — whether this flood was attributed to climate change we can't say for sure — but we are going to see more floods if it continues."

Jordison said most floods do not affect solar panels and wind turbines, and during the flood, the Power Plant did not working.

"This is part of the prevention process and ensuring students their future and life on this planet safely," he said.

The coalition plans to speak with UI officials in the coming weeks.

"At the end of the day, when we win this campaign, it'll be a win for the university as well," Carter said. "It'll be a greener campus."

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