Student campaign pushes for CSU clean-energy use

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To help reduce pollution and fight the effects of global warming, the Renew CSU student campaign urges the CSU system to use efficient, innovative clean energy and sustainable building technologies.

For a year and a half, the student campaign has been dedicated to getting the entire system to operate under a clean energy policy, said Josh Lynch, organizer for Green Peace.

“The CSU Board’s response has been very slow, and (the) Cal States have delayed action at a time when California is moving forward,” Lynch said.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Environmental Policy Agenda requires that 20 percent of all electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2010, Lynch said.

Since CSU campuses currently use energy from coal, nuclear power and gas, 99.8 percent is dirty energy taken from nuclear and other power plants in Arizona, said Shakti Maisen, Renew CSU organizer.

“It’s hugely polluting with mercury, and contributes to global warming,” Maisen said. “CSUs are one of the biggest systems, and we still haven’t adopted a system or policy of clean energy.”

The Renew CSU campaign suggests that CSU campuses install 11.5 megawatts of solar panels across CSU campuses, commit to 25 percent of clean energy usage by 2014, instate environmentally-friendly building standards for all new and renovated buildings, and meet a goal of 20 percent less energy use per student by 2014, Lynch said.

Although state universities are using 15 percent less energy than in 1999, CSUs are saving energy, but not reaching their full energy-saving potential, Lynch said.

“By investing in clean energy on each campus and generating their own power, CSUs will be offsetting the dirty energy they currently use,” Lynch said. “About 44 percent of the CSUs energy comes from coal, which shortens the lives of more than 23,000 people each year throughout the United States and kills more people than drunk driving and homicides.”

Burning fossil fuels will generate carbon dioxide pollution that gets into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming, said Ali Tabidian, environmental geology professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.

“Coal has sulfur, and when it burns, one of the bad gases is sulfur dioxide, which combines with rain, kills plants and contributes to corrosion,” Tabidian said.

Alternative sources include solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower sources, which tend to be much more expensive than coal or crude oil, Tabidian said.

As oil costs continue to rise, using solar panels can be efficient for universities, Maisen said.

While there are 23 CSU campuses, less than half are using renewable or clean energy, Maisen said.

“Since most of the CSU campuses, including Northridge, have a Renew CSU group, the biggest thing right now is for students to ask their presidents to consider options for solar panels and renewable energy on their campus(es),” Lynch said.

CSUN currently has 3,000 solar panels, and is expected to save the university more than $50,000 annually in energy costs, while at the same time contributing to a cleaner environment.

“CSUN is already doing a lot of good stuff, but we want all the other campuses to do it, too,” Maisen said.