Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Effective plans can encourage growth and protect environment

We attend an exceptional school. The University of Wisconsin has a deservedly high academic reputation, unparalleled research opportunities and abundant natural beauty on campus. Above all, it is always growing.

With growth comes added pressure for energy to supply our offices, computer labs, laboratories and classrooms. Most UW students would like that energy supply to come in a way that is safe for their own health and for the health of the state. Unfortunately, Wisconsin does not have a plan that guarantees we will have clean and sustainable energy. Therefore, it is essential that the state adopt a long-term energy plan to make sure that any new power source for the state and our campus does not come at a cost to consumers or our public health.

Right now, the state of Wisconsin depends on nonrenewable energy sources — chiefly coal, natural gas and nuclear power — for over 95 percent of its energy. This overwhelming reliance on dirty and dangerous energy sources hurts our health and our environment.

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According to Abt Associates, Wisconsin’s coal-burning power plants put enough pollution into our air to cause 9,000 asthma attacks and 450 premature deaths per year in our state, as well as contributing to climate change. In addition, these coal plants release toxic mercury, and the DNR has issued health warnings for mercury in every Wisconsin waterway. Mercury builds up in fish and, if eaten in large enough quantities, can cause learning disabilities.

Nuclear energy creates a hazardous waste that takes tens of thousands of years to break down. Also, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave Wisconsin’s Point Beach Nuclear Plant the most serious safety importance rating after finding potential safety problems.

Without a long-term energy plan that puts us on a path toward a clean energy future, we will continue to see increases in dirty and dangerous sources. In the end, the state is the ultimate decision-maker regarding our energy, so the UW should take the lead in convincing the state to create a long-term energy plan that addresses three main areas.

First, we should set a goal for decreasing overall energy consumption through energy-efficient measures. Simple practices such as changing to more efficient appliances and light bulbs and switching computers to sleep mode or turning them off at night are just a few examples. Many of us have experienced the phenomenon of walking from freezing outside weather into a sweltering classroom — improving heating and cooling are other options. UW has already taken energy-efficient steps, but even more needs to be done, especially at the state level.

Secondly, UW should convince the state to adopt minimum green-building standards for every new building. These standards minimize overall energy usage and can be found in buildings across the country. Green buildings can maximize sunlight for heating, electric power and light, as well as use geothermal energy for natural cooling power.

Thirdly, UW should convince the state to increase minimal guidelines for generating renewable energy, such as solar, clean biomass and wind power. Wisconsin was the first state ever to set renewable energy guidelines, which are currently at 2.5 percent. It is time to set new guidelines if we want to make a dent in the costly energy that is being produced in the state. Renewable energy also creates sustainable jobs and pumps money into local economies that site renewable energy facilities.

In order for the University to continue to grow and maintain its status as one of the top schools in the country without damaging our health and community, we need some guidelines that put us on the path to a cleaner, sustainable energy future.

Since the ultimate decision-maker is the state of Wisconsin, we need to encourage our elected leaders to adopt a long-term energy plan that sets strong goals for increasing renewable energy, decreasing energy consumption and utilizing energy-efficient building designs. This plan will allow UW to continue to grow while ensuring that future UW students will be able to fish without being concerned about mercury poisoning or go running on the west side of campus without damaging their lungs.

Travis Bird ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in philosophy. He is a member of WISPIRG.

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