Get the College Off Coal Power

Phoebe Flaherty

To the Editors:

In addition to being known as a progressive, socially liberal school, Oberlin College finds itself with a green reputation; the integration of the co-op system, sustainable buildings such as the AJLC and residences such as SEED House demonstrate ways in which the College and students have made significant efforts to increase our sustainability and lower our carbon footprint. However, our so-called green school has a big, dirty secret: a significant portion of our energy comes from burning coal.

Oberlin College is responsible for the release of approximately 52,000 tons of CO2 per year — the equivalent of 17.77 tons of CO2 per student per year. Seventy-six percent of total emissions come from purchased electricity and the operation of our central heating coal plant.

However, this need not be the case. There are many ways to decrease our school’s carbon footprint and save money while we’re doing it. Improvements to building energy efficiency, such as changing lighting, insulating and hot water waste modifications could potentially save our school millions of dollars over the years following their implementation. Oberlin has already increased its greenhouse gas offsets through the means of switching to solar panels and purchasing green electricity to 22 percent, but this is just the first step of many that need to be taken on Oberlin’s path towards carbon neutrality.

More importantly, burning coal results in nearly 31 percent of our total emissions on campus. Switching from coal to a more sustainable energy will significantly lower our carbon emissions and save the College mad cash over the course of the next 20 years. Replacing the already existing coal-fired burners with more efficient gas-fired units, paired with other improvements, can reduce emissions from our campus drastically while making a strong statement about our school’s dedication to sustainable fuel sources.

These options are feasible, but won’t happen on their own. We as a student body need to actively pursue the change we seek; we need to demand sustainable improvements from our administration. Luckily for us, Earth First! and Oberlin’s Student Senate coal working group are circulating a petition demanding that the administration get our campus off of coal. Take the initiative, and sign the petition! It’s absolutely imperative that Oberlin decision-makers know how strongly our student body feels about moving away from dirty energy sources and how many students are in agreement on this issue. If we all make the effort, we can live up to our reputation. Let’s get Oberlin off coal.

–Phoebe Flaherty
College Sophomore