The Price of Environmentalism

Unlike many of the seem-ingly arbitrary and obscure fees that increase student tu-ition bills every semester, a new fee currently being pro-posed by the Vermont Cam-pus Energy Group (VCEG) might actually be welcomed by students despite the add-ed financial cost. The Vermont Campus Energy Group is trying to establish a Clean Energy Fund that would be used to purchase renewable energy at UVM through a required student fee. The student club conducted a survey which indicated that out of 800 stu-dents, across a broad spec-trum of majors, 70 percent said that they would be will-ing to pay a fee of $5 – 15 per semester for renewable en-ergy on campus, said VCEG President Nikoli Janjic. The actual amount of pro-posed fee is yet to be deter-mined. After securing some support from the student body, VCEG plans on present-ing their resolution Tuesday, Jan. 30 to the SGA Student Action Committee. The fund would sup-port the implementation of a methane digester — which uses the decomposition gases from manure to produce en-ergy — at the College of Ag-riculture and Life Sciences’ Spear Street dairy farm, and solar and wind energy on campus. “The initiative will improve the economy and environment of our school,” said Ken Bagstad, an ecologi-cal economics PhD student involved in VCEG. VCEG’s Vice-President Dan Belhumer is skeptical in anticipating Tuesday’s re-sult. “The Board of Trustees is the highest tier, they are not very green and are not working to be as sustainable as they could.” “Students need to be lead-ers, there ought to be action and we hope that we are set-ting an example in which we will get support from the fac-ulty and staff,” said Bagstad. The wind turbine on the eastern edge of campus was established as an educational tool, not as a significant renewable energy source for the university. “The UVM wind turbine is very inefficient; there is no good spot for wind on the UVM campus,” said Belhum-er. The University of Colo-rado at Boulder instated a $1 per person per semester fee to purchase wind energy. “We have to think realistically about who we are and where we are. CU receives more state funding; and because our tuition is much higher we have to invest in access for low income students,” said President Daniel Fogel. “If we can use only renewables in a way that is affordable to the students, I would be hap-py to pursue it; it would be a wonderful goal for us.” Janjic said, “This is a sound economic move, not a trick. Money that is saved can be used for students.” “There is so much going on from other universities, UVM needs to keep pushing to maintain its status as an environmental leader,” said Bagstad. “The most effec-tive change comes from bot-tom to top, it can’t just be the students and it shouldn’t just be the administration. UVM’s cutting edge academic pro-grams are great, but now we need to translate these good intentions into actions.” Recently, Bowdoin Col-lege in Maine decided to stop taking electricity from the grid altogether. Middle-bury College pledged to be completely carbon neutral, meaning that they will not add carbon dioxide, one of the leading causes of global warming, to the atmosphere. According to environ-mental studies professor and member of the Environmen-tal Council Stephanie Kaza, “We are one of the leading institutions, we might loose our lead in the next couple of years as things are progress-ing.” Environmental Council member Gioia Thompson commends the environmen-tal initiatives that student groups have been taking on campus. “I think this is the beginning of a good dialogue; thank you for doing this.”