Coal Is Too Dirty - Even for College

Video credit:Sierra Club

That's the new ad for our Campuses Beyond Coal campaign, which is targeting universities and colleges and working with college students to kick coal off campus. Over the past several years there's been an uproar from students coast-to-coast who are building the clean energy future right on their campuses. These students are ready to be done with coal - and it's no surprise the call to action is coming from this particular generation.On the 2008 presidential campaign trail, college students frequently led the way for then candidate Barack Obama. The millenial generation is powerful, and they are shaping the future of our country, and they want action now on clean energy.

"It's crazy that we're still dependent on last century's technology to charge our iPods," said Kim Teplitzky, National Field Coordinator for the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC). Teplitzky said this is part of the common message from the students the SSC works with. "All of us are saying 'It's time to move forward, and our institutions of higher learning should be leading way - not lagging behind'"

As we've launched this Campuses Beyond Coal campaign, we're also seeing how many students did not realize their schools were being powered by coal - even though some universities have coal-fired power plants right there on campus.

This is spurring them to action, said Teplitzky. "Students are refusing to sit idly by while their campuses are being fueled by an energy source that is making people ill, polluting water and causing 24,000 premature deaths each year," she said. "They're demanding a switch to clean energy sources that will drive innovation, create jobs and jumpstart a new energy economy."

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(photo by Zoë Caron)

The problem is, there are dirty energy industries out there trying to win the "hearts and minds" of this generation, for lack of a better phrase. As we talk to our students across the US, we're also hearing stories of industry-backed groups like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) showing up on campuses and handing out free shirts and hats touting the supposed benefits of clean coal. You remember ACCCE - they're the group linked to the lobbying firm that sent forged letters from community groups to legislators encouraging "no" votes on the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

And so we go with our campaign. We're specifically targeting 11 schools that currently rely on coal power:

-- Indiana University - Bloomington
-- Ohio University
-- Penn State University
-- State University of New York - Binghamton
-- University of Colorado - Boulder
-- University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
-- University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
-- University of Missouri-Columbia
-- University of North Dakota
-- University of Southern California
-- Virginia Tech

Students are spreading the message that coal is too dirty - even for college. There are two more excellent ads to come, not to mention the major print ad and organizing campaign behind our push for clean energy. The Campuses Beyond Coal campaign is working nationwide to wean all campuses off of coal-generated electricity and replace it with clean energy options. With organizers on the ground at several of the more than 60 campuses with on-site coal plants, the campaign is working to help universities achieve the zero carbon emissions targets set forth in the President's Climate Commitment.

We released a report last month to support the campaign: "Breaking Coal's Grip on Our Future: Moving Campuses Beyond Coal." It highlights many of the problems facing coal dependent schools and the solutions available.

If you attend one of the 11 targeted schools, you can sign a petition asking your university president to kick coal off your campus - the list and the petition are on this website:

Thousands of young people have already taken action - they know their future relies on it. "Coal is not only responsible for a third of our global warming emissions, but pollution from mining, burning and disposing of coal waste is poisoning communities," said Teplitzky. "Young people get this and know it can't continue. That's why we're kicking coal off our campuses and joining fights in our communities for clean, renewable energy solutions."

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