UK must stop using coal to maintain appeal

Patrick Johnson

Patrick Johnson

As recent events have suggested, the administration of our university has decided that many on-campus facilities are in significant need of repair and renovation. This is an opportunity for the university to show alumni, the current student body, faculty, staff and prospective students that they are willing to make intelligent, sustainable decisions that will lead to a much healthier and cleaner campus.

UK is one of nearly 50 schools in the U.S. to have a coal-fired power plant located on its campus. Besides the well-documented environmental degradation that coal mining and, more specifically, strip mining have on the beautiful mountains and mixed mesophytic forests of Appalachia, this plant provides many hazards for students and faculty on campus.

In 1977, a collection of amendments were made to the Clean Air Act. Among other things, it established a permitting program to ensure that every new plant meets the air quality standards established in 1970. However, in a fateful policy compromise, existing power plants were exempted from the permit program — they were “grandfathered.” This amendment essentially has allowed toxic pollutants to steadily stream into local air supplies across the country.

The plant on campus fits the bill as one of these “grandfathered” coal-fired power plants. This has allowed a lack of scrubbers and a lack of air-particulate pollution control. With the close proximity to the hospital, as well as the location on campus, thousands of people each day are subject to this plant’s pollutants.

If UK wants to appeal to the next generation of prospective students, and if they truly care about the health of the campus, those in charge will make the decision to retire this extremely dirty energy source and begin the transition towards alternate, cleaner energy technologies.

The argument that coal should continue to be combusted for energy on campus due to its inexpensive cost should hold no weight. Should saving money take priority over public health? I would certainly hope not.

Patrick Johnson is a natural resources and environmental science junior. Email opinions@kykernel.com.

Anonymous says:

“Since when should the government be investing into privatized business anyway?”

I honestly cannot tell if you’re kidding. 
Edit: nevermind, I’m going to resist an argument with a Glenn Beck fan.

What is the whole entire point of capitalism? What is the whole entire point of an industry? Yes it provides a service, but it does so to turn a profit, a net gain, and currently renewable resources such as wind and solar energy aren’t turning a profit. That is why they have to be subsidized by the government. It is currently nothing more than an investment into an idea that may someday become feasible, but currently we are throwing away millions upon millions of taxpayers hard earned dollars by investing into these companies such as Solyndra that turn around and file bankruptcy. Since when should the government be investing into privatized business anyway? That takes away from the true, pure form of capitalism. People say that capitalism is destroying this country and that it will be the downfall of America. What they don’t think about is the fact that capitalism is what got us to where we are today, and the reason we are in such bad shape is because of a stray from that capitalistic system. We have been through this before with the great depression and capitalism saved us then and brought us to becoming the world’s leading nation.

Anonymous says:

If the world continues to be run based on the idea of capitalism, then the human race will continue to destroy themselves. When someone says that coal is cheap,  they truly are uneducated about the entire situation. They have been continuously barraged with propaganda from an industry who has one thing in mind: making a profit. When taken into account the amount of money spent per year offsetting the incredible health impacts of the people directly affected by coal mining in Appalachia, the true cost of coal is actually MUCH higher than typical solar costs. This fails to also account for the amount of money per year that the federal government is spending to attempt to offset global climate change as a direct result of the carbon dioxide released out of coal-fired power plants.

As for the solar power argument? You again have obviously allowed yourself to be skewed by the power of Big Coal propaganda. Eastern Kentucky actually has more solar potential than the country of Germany, who happens to be the #1 solar producing country in the world. They can do it because policy changes in the federal government created a subsidy system to jumpstart solar energy production. Until our government stops subsidizing dirty fossil fuels like coal and oil, the world will continue to be filled with greed, exploitation, and manipulation.

Billy Turner says:

I would guess that Mr. Johnson doesn’t have an alternate plan for providing the 4 million kwh that the University uses. Wind? Solar? It is not feasible or economical. Why do people insist on riding the greenie train until total economic disaster occurs? Have you heard of the government funded bankrupted company Solyndra? Your statement “The argument that coal should continue to be combusted for energy on campus due to its inexpensive cost should hold no weight.” Is probably the most uneducated thing I have ever read and is what has caused America the problems of today.

Anonymous says:

Honestly, after your tenure at UK is over with are you really going to care what it uses as its main energy source? Is anybody going to care what UK does after they are gone? As long as nothing happens to the basketball team and the hospital, nobody will really care about anything UK. 

Regardless of whether or not UK has it’s own power plant or not, it is still getting it’s electricity from coal. As is, the other 47% of America. Kentucky has the fourth lowest electricity cost/kwh and it is for one simple reason KENTUCKY COAL.

William Osborne says:

While I would agree that new pollution controls would be a valuable and smart addition to the campus coal-fired power plant, as well as other aging plants around the country, completely phasing out this resource in the near future is unreasonable.

Kentucky enjoys the country’s 4th lowest energy costs which benefits all Kentuckians (including cash strapped student renters and the University). If anyone seriously looks at the energy situation in the U.S. right now, it is obvious coal and natural gas play a significant role in the future. Green technology has not been developed that can replace the capacity that Americans use. Rather than spending millions (and almost certainly billions) of dollars on green technology that is bound to be obsolete in less than a few year; why not spend that money on new and updated coal-fired plants and investment into research and development for green technologies?
Americans need a realistic solution that does not pillage the pocket book and does not discourage businesses with high energy costs. Simply believing we can switch to green energy at anytime neglects reality. Solving American’s energy problems will take time and in the mean time non-renewable energy will keep the lights on.  

Jordan Stapp says:

hey, if you, and all the other students want to pay even more in tuition to obtain an alternative energy source for UK, then knock yourself out. But I’d be willing to bet that someone is going to come knocking on the Kentucky and American taxpayers to pay for this.

Some food for thought:
The EPA says air pollution kills tens of thousands of people annually.
This is on a par with traffic accident fatalities. While we can identify
traffic accident victims, air pollution victims are unknown,
unidentified and as far as anyone can tell, figments of EPA’s
statistical imagination.

Consider that the EPA and its enviro-buddies are essentially accusing
coal-fired utilities of killing and injuring hundreds of thousands of
people annually. Have you ever wondered why there are no class-action
lawsuits against utilities for billions of dollars in damages?