Colorado State University: Going Green Costs Too Much! Who Knew?

by Marlo Lewis on December 30, 2010

in Blog

An internal Colorado State University (CSU) study concludes that the university can’t afford to become carbon-neutral by 2020, as planned. A news item about the study appeared in the Dec. 18 edition of Coloradoan.Com. Erick, a blogger on RedState, has a funny commentary on the story.

CSU had been planning to build what the Coloradoan describes as a “massive electricity-generating wind farm” on the university’s Maxwell campus. However, a few weeks ago the deal collapsed. Fort Collins campus President Tony Frank said the University can’t afford to achieve carbon-neutrality in the foreseeable future. How come?

Well, for one thing, CSU emissions have been going up in recent years: “In fiscal year 2006, CSU emitted 217,070 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Those emissions rose 7 per-cent by 2009.” Okay, but why? The Coloradoan reports:

The university counts emissions for everything from electrical power generation and faculty commuting to air travel by students studying abroad. And when it builds new buildings and admits additional students, the demand generally goes up.

“We could save a lot of energy by sending the students home, sending the researchers home. But that’s not what we do here,” said Carol Dollard, who helps coordinate CSU’s climate-action efforts. “We’re adding students, adding buildings.”

Erick comments: “An expanding business generates more emissions. Who knew?”

Still, why can’t MSU just cut emissions and lead by example? I mean after all, they’re not some greedy oil company. They’re a bastion of progressive thinking, they want to save the planet, and they don’t lack political will. What gives? The Coloradoan explains:

In order to significantly reduce emissions, CSU would have to dramatically shift where it gets its power and dramatically reduce the amount of power it uses. Most of the electricity in Colorado comes from coal-fired power plants and, increasingly, from burning natural gas. But making that shift is expensive because CSU uses so much electricity, not just for residence halls and classroom buildings, but laboratories filled with power-hungry computers and experimental equipment.

Oh, so ejumacation and “the science” depend on electricity, and affordable, fossil-based electricity supports learning and educational opportunity. Facts CSU students probably never encounter in the classroom.

As President Frank put it, “For us, you’d have to really jack up tuition [to run MSU on zero-carbon energy] and put it toward plans like that.” 

Erick of RedState comments: “Really? You mean mandating a huge reduction in emissions would require a business to pass on those costs to its customers?”

He concludes:

Colorado State University learned more about basic economics here than they ever could have from a government-funded study. While I’d love to believe that this knowledge will be passed on to the greater academic community, I just can’t imagine that it will. The irony of their own comments are completely lost on them.

Sure Energy January 5, 2011 at 8:21 pm

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