COLUMBIA — Students and faculty voiced both support and opposition Thursday to a letter UM System President Gary Forsee wrote Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer urging him to oppose two "Clean Energy" bills.
The letter was written in November and opposed a House resolution and a Senate bill because they would have a "detrimental impact" on the University of Missouri System. In the letter, Forsee cited concerns the legislation could cost the university between $5 million and $8 million. Some critics have said this contradicts Forsee's previous support of the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment petition.
According to a document provided by MU spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken, these figures were generated based on information from the Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. The university's worst-case scenario projected the legislation could cost the school $6.7 million, with a 20 percent margin of error.
“We urge you to oppose these bills or ensure that specific exemptions are included,” Forsee wrote in his letter.
About 35 protesters gathered outside University Hall, where the system offices are located, in opposition to Forsee’s stance on the legislation.
“He ... used the word 'we,'” said MU junior Tyler Hutcherson, a member of Coal Free Mizzou who disagrees with Forsee. “I’m definitely not a part of that ‘we.'”
Jan Weaver, director of MU's Environmental Studies program, said MU has an important role to play in making the state more carbon-neutral.
Weaver said Forsee raised legitimate concerns about the budget in his letter, but she does not think the university should base its actions on a worst-case scenario.
"It would be reasonable to ask for a best-case scenario as well," she said.
About 10 MU students who support Forsee's stance on the legislation counter-protested, citing concerns that the proposed bill could ultimately increase students' tuition.
"We're not like anti-environment, it's just ... the cost far outweighs the benefits with this bill," MU senior Eric Hobbs said. "The university is a business, and they're not just going to take a hit in profits."
Gov. Jay Nixon announced in January a budget agreement for fiscal year 2010 under which Missouri students would be protected from tuition increases, and higher education institutions would receive necessary funding, according to the governor's Web site. He proposed last month to freeze tuition again.
Nixon's office could not be reached for comment.
MU sophomore Megan Roberts, who agrees with Forsee's stance, said she would like to see an economic model implemented that rewards companies for lowering carbon dioxide output as opposed to legislation that forces them to.
"I believe we should give tax credits to companies that invest in alternative energy research," she said.
One piece of energy legislation, House Resolution 2454, or the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, passed the House in June and is awaiting a Senate vote.
According to a bill summary by the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the legislation currently includes the following measures:
- Require electric utilities to satisfy 20 percent of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.
- Invest in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including $90 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency, $20 billion in electric vehicles and other advanced technologies, $60 billion in carbon capture and sequestration, as well as $20 billion in "basic" research and development.
- Reduce carbon dioxide emissions from major U.S. sources by 17 percent by 2020.
According to the Committee on Energy and Commerce's summary, citing the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation is calculated to cost the average household less than 50 cents per day.