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Coal’s Dominant Presence at IU Draws Ire of Student Group

A group of Indiana University students associated with the Sierra Club Wednesday launched a campaign to make the college's Bloomington campus coal-free.

Coal's Dominant Presence at IU Draws Ire of Student Group

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A group of Indiana University students associated with the Sierra Club today at the campus coal launched a campaign to make the college’s Bloomington campus coal-free.

The group claims IU uses 60,000 tons of coal per year.

Michael Hamburger is professor of geological sciences and co-chair for the Task Force on Campus Sustainability. He says that though IU is interested in efforts to become carbon neutral, no comprehensive scheme has been put into play.

“I would say IU as an institution has not formally made a commitment to move in a particular path towards reducing dependence on fossil fuels,” he said.

Hamburger says an investment to change the energy infrastructure could result in a thirty percent return by saving in future energy costs. But he says up-front costs will likely be an obstacle to IU’s administration coming around to the idea.

The central heating plant is one of the most challenging partly because the infrastructure costs are so great to make changes and partly because the cost of alternatives to coal and this part of the country are so high compared with the relatively low cost of coal,” Hamburger said.

Lauren Kastner, an IU Freshman and volunteer with the student group lobbying for a coal-free campus, points to Ball State University as an example of a Hoosier campus that has already begun moving towards the goal, despite high costs of infrastructure and alternative fuels.  Earlier this year, Ball St. announced a 70 million dollar investment in a geothermal heating and cooling system that will become the largest in the country.

“If Ball State University can completely transition their campus and move beyond coal to clean energy, so can we here at IU,” she said.

Hamburger says Indiana’s coal-heavy economy could also prove to be a political obstacle to IU’s transition away from traditional energy sources.

The student group submitted their report to the Provost’s Office Wednesday.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story contained the language “…[the Provost's office] did not return repeated phone calls Wednesday.”  In fact, the Provost’s office communicated that the Provost was unavailable for comment Wednesday but was available for comment the next day. WFIU regrets this error.

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