Student groups advocate alternative energy with banner




By Ryan Winstead

Thursday morning was both cold and windy, but that didn’t stop one coalition of students from getting their message to the public.

Students from UK Beyond Coal and UK Green Thumb unfurled their banner advocating alternative energy Thursday morning at the William T. Young Library.

Sprawled down the hill of the library’s entrance, passing students could easily read the banner: “Coal: a tradition of oppression. Students, let’s change our legacy.”

Jared Flanery, Green Thumb member, and Patrick Johnson, a senior and co-coordinator of Green Thumb, were two of the students waving the banner.

“We want to create a dialogue over the topic on campus,” Johnson said.

Flanery, a history junior, agreed. “The goal of today is to increase visibility,” he said.

Elaine Alvey, a senior and co-coordinator of Green Thumb, related the banner drop to the hosting of last week’s basketball game by the Sierra Club.

“We wanted to use that momentum to keep the conversation about energy going,” she said. “We want to start the semester strong.”

Johnson also explained the group’s hopes of raising awareness of UK’s relationship with coal. “People need to know there are two coal-fired plants on campus. The university needs to consider renewable energy alternatives,” he said.

Johnson listed solar and geothermal as two possible renewable energy resources. “It can happen here.”

It is not all about climate change, Flanery said in regards to the coal-fired plants on campus. “It’s about public health, too,” he said.

Last October, UK Beyond Coal met with the Board of Trustees and called for a change in the university’s reliance on coal-powered energy.

In a Nov. 8 Kernel article, Bob Wiseman, vice president for facilities management, said the coal power plants are completely legal.

“Coal plants, like we have on our campus, are governed by the state Division of Air Quality, and then they give us a permit to operate them,” he said. “That operating permit stands on its own.”

In the article, Wiseman said he lives about two blocks from one of the coal power plants and said in the article he wouldn’t have built his house there if he felt he was in any danger.

Alvey targeted UK’s connection with coal, citing the Wildcat Coal Lodge as a primary example.

“We want to see the financial relationship between UK and the coal industries change,” she said.

Alvey also tackled misconceptions about the renewable energy movement.

“There’s a misconception that we’re all hippies,” she said. “It’s really a very diverse movement.”

She also said that often people think they hate the coal industry.

The group’s focus is to look for answers to the energy crisis, not conflict, Alvey.

“I feel like we’re the silent majority,” she said.