A relationship that needs to end

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Shortly after I wrote my Fossil Fuel Bong hits post last week, I heard UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers on the radio had traveled to Juneau to advance funding for a coal fired plant to provide heating and electricity. We did a face-steering-wheel honk fail.

I don’t want to put anyone through the wringer. Chancellor Rogers is under budget constraints and faces the possibility that the heating and power plant that currently supplies the campus just dying outright. A relatively cheap coal powered plant and a deal with a coal supplier may seem like a god send.

But, this is how we’ve gotten here. Our burning of fossil fuel and its extraction has gotten easy and cheap (relatively speaking). This fact, along with corporate entrenchment defending their fossil fuel industry at all costs, has stagnated growth and ingenuity in our pursuit for creating energy systems that look beyond fossil fuels. That’s a longer discussion for another day.

Right now, if you think that UAF should look into alternative approaches towards creating heat and energy send an email to the Chancellor and his staff (Contact Emails). Below is what I sent to Chancellor Rogers:

24 February 2014

Office of the Chancellor
3rd floor Signers’ Hall
P.O. Box 757500
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775

Chancellor Rogers,

I am currently an IT Technician with UAF’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in Juneau, Alaska. I’ve grown up in Alaska and graduated from the University of Alaska Southeast. I’m grateful for the education I’ve received and the employment I now enjoy in an educational institution that overall advances the sciences, engineering and the environment.
Last week, you were in Juneau seeking approval for $195 million in state funding to design and build a coal-fired plant to replace the current end of life UAF heating and electrical unit. I commend you and your office’s efforts to grab the caribou by the antlers and address a major infrastructural problem before a failure or crisis occurs due to the aging unit.
However, I plead with you and University officials to look towards heating and electrical sources that avoid further entrenchment towards fossil fuels. I realize that given the circumstances and the lean budget, your hand is being forced in many ways.
I ask you to consider the cost to Fairbanks air quality by continuing commitment to coal. I ask you to consider the cost to the environment and possibly salmon to advance investments in coal mining and extraction. I ask you to consider the symbolic cost that UAF building a coal plant in 2014 says about human ingenuity. I ask you to consider the absurd paradox that UAF would be perpetuating by building a coal plant and simultaneously being the most prominent player in environmental and Arctic research in the state.
Perhaps a coal fired plant is inevitable. The cost and technology, here and now, may all point in that direction. I purpose you open up a public forum geared at getting UAF’s engineers and energy experts across the state to weigh in on creative, innovative and unorthodox approaches to, at the very least, mitigate all the costs environmentally and otherwise that building a coal plant entails.
Further, I would hope that your office could speak publicly about what you’d ideally like to do to provide power and heat at UAF. Perhaps the foundation and the struts for implementing an ideal UAF energy and heating solution should start now, not later.

Thank your for your time.

Forest Kvasnikoff

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