The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday August 9th

Coal protests miss point: Climate Action Plan will enhance UNC’s energy habits

Recent criticisms of the University’s use of coal and activists’ calls for faster action to end its use are unreasonable.

The Climate Action Plan has already put long-term goals in place to reduce dependency on coal and convert the Cameron Avenue plant to use alternative fuel.

Protesters feel that the University could be doing more and doing it faster. But the plan sets far more realistic and attainable goals and leaves the door open for longer-term innovation.

The goal set by the University calls for a return by 2020 to the emission levels of 2000. By 2050, the campus is to be carbon-neutral.

But these goals are not enough for some of the protesters. Sara Mishamandani, one of the student protesters, said the plan is “lacking urgency.” She pointed to Ball State, a university in Indiana, as a model for more rapid implementation of green initiatives. 

But Ball State only has 6.8 million square feet of building space, compared to UNC’s 18.5 million.

This means the investment in capital required to move Ball State to carbon neutrality is far less costly. And the logistics are far simpler. 

Shifting variables make cost and feasibility projections very difficult. Future construction, population growth and federal regulation will affect the University’s ability to meet the benchmarks it has set. 

“The energy systems for the University are very complex. The energy issues that are facing the University are very, very complex. Implementing replacement technologies takes time,” said Raymond DuBose, director of energy services.

External forces will continue to alter the feasibility and availability of alternative energy. And the University will have to continuously adapt to these constraints.

But students would do better to educate themselves on conservation and decrease their energy usage than to criticize the University that has already demonstrated commitment to the environment.

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