In response to Matthew Hurt’s article “Beyond Coal lacks suitable plan for Tech” (CT, Oct. 13), I am addressing the errors or misrepresentations of the student campaign. I have many issues with how his narrow argument was presented.
The first set of problems Hurt identifies with the campaign begins with his assertion “Beyond Coal is far from being a movement with a well thought out mission.” Hurt, however, does not mention some of the fundamentals of the group.
Beyond Coal’s mission is to get campuses nationwide to move off of their coal-fired power plants by 2020. It is a 10-year plan, which is not a short amount of time, especially given the increasing developments in renewable energy. This plan is also timed closely with the beginning of the Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability plan, which binds the university to move off of the cogeneration plant between 2025 and 2050.
Second, he claims a “the lack of current interest from the university to invest in alternative energies.” Interest to invest in alternative energies comes from more than just the university administration. Substantial student and community support for alternative energies would help create the shift in campus priorities. A large-scale change in mentality on our campus and in Blacksburg is the best way to promote clean energy investments.
Third, Hurt asks, “Why make this change given the current state of our economy?” Should our campus become energy independent, the university would have economic stability in the future. Also, investing in clean energy is a choice that has more benefits than the outright cost. Protecting the environment, the Appalachian communities around Tech, increasing the university’s prestige and improving the health of students are benefits that can’t be factored into a price tag.
While Hurt is correct “there is no avoiding the fact that switching to alternative energy will have a massive financial cost to the university,” he is not taking into account the massive costs coal will also have. In the Tech sustainability plan, the university’s coal prices have tripled from 2004 to 2008.