SIU coal plant needs to retire

Dear Editor:

There is a false dichotomy being presented about the clean energy generation: That we must choose between finances and human health. Proponents of the coal plant claim that to convert to green energy would be too expensive. Yet this is not accurate.

According to Environmental Protection Agency’s pollutant facility report, there were 17.6 pounds of Mercury emissions in 2002. But the harm to human health is not calculated in the plant’s bottom line, largely because of the difficulty of establishing culpability in a specific case of asthma, heart disease, etc.

Further, it is argued that green energy is not cost competitive with coal, which is not accurate today given technological advancements made during the past 20 years. Ball State University demonstrated this by completing stage one of its conversion to cleaner energy. BSU is expected to complete the entire project in five to ten years and would have the largest ground-source, closed-loop district geothermal system in the United States.

According to a 2009 article on BSU’s website, taking the current coal boilers offline will save the university a half-million dollars per boiler annually in operational costs, resulting in savings of $2 million a year when the project is completed.

SIUC is the only Illinois campus without a retirement plan for its plant. University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana still uses a coal plant, but there are plans to retire it within five years.

It’s time that SIU joins the 21st Century on green energy: Green as in environmentally-friendly and cost-effective. Beyond Coal is simply asking for an independent estimate of the cost of a geothermal and solar system to replace the current coal plant.

Surely this is not too much to ask in the name of student health, climate change and long-term economic savings.


Daniel Younker
senior from Downer’s Grove studying philosophy

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