MU environmental clubs discuss partnership, energy transition with university leaders

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 | 6:00 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Members of two MU environmental clubs met with university leaders Wednesday. They discussed a potential partnership to help MU transition from coal-powered energy, according to a Coal Free Mizzou representative. 

The meeting with MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and UM System President Tim Wolfe was set up after Coal Free Mizzou attended the Sept. 13 UM System Board of Curators meeting.

MU sophomore Kelsey Wingo, media coordinator for Coal Free Mizzou, said discussion centered on the feasibility of making the transition from coal-powered energy at MU by 2015. They discussed creating a partnership with Coal Free Mizzou, she said. 

"The basis is that they really want to involve Coal Free Mizzou to see what is possible for Mizzou and what it would look like to transition away from coal," she said. "It implies communication will be open and steps will be made."

Six people attended the meeting to represent Coal Free Mizzou and the Environmental Science Club, Wingo said. Representatives from Sustain Mizzou did not attend. 

"We were invited by Coal Free Mizzou to be there, but after looking over their ask, we decided that, while we are in total support of their mission to be coal free, we could not support an ask that seemed too ambitious to us," said Abigail Keel, president of Sustain Mizzou and a sophomore at MU.

Keel said the student organization had reservations about the 2015 deadline. 

"We thought that asking the university to commit to being coal free by 2015, without giving them an upfront cost, was perhaps not the most successful way to present the goal to them," Keel said. "But we are proud of Coal Free."

Representatives from the UM System and MU said they did not have enough information Wednesday afternoon to comment on the meeting.

A rolling plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2016 is in place, according to an MU climate action plan. The MU Power Plant uses four coal-fired boilers, in addition to other boilers, to generate energy. Increases in natural gas and biomass with a new biomass boiler will reduce coal use, the plan states. 

Missouri fulfilled 82 percent of its energy needs with coal in 2011, according to the State Profile and Energy Estimates.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.


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Mark Foecking October 11, 2012 | 4:23 a.m.

"we could not support an ask that seemed too ambitious to us,"

Nonwithstanding why it's an "ask" rather than a position or proposition, some good advice might be for Coal Free Mizzou to talk to some people at the College of Engineering to get some honest background on what is practical, its costs, and pitfalls. Ideology drives policy and action, but it doesn't keep the lights on.

Mizzou could negotiate with Ameren for 35 MW or so of the output of Callaway, and that would make them coal-free a lot quicker. However, I doubt that's something CFM wants to pursue either.

The easy energy of fossil fuels will be very difficult to replace, and it is their easy energy that fools people into thinking it will be easy - we can just flip a switch and make as many renewables as we want. Engineers know why that is not so, and perhaps some of the CFM folks could learn from them.


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