There are only 60 universities in the United States that have coal-fueled power plants located on campus and the University of Kentucky is one of them. Then again, what would you expect from a state-funded university nestled in the heartland of one of the nation's largest coal producers? According to the National Mining Association, Kentucky is ranked number three, behind number two West Virginia and number one Wyoming, in the nation's coal production (with just over 10 percent). It is with this in mind that I pass by the large stockpile of coal that sits next to the Reynolds Building, where I take my art studio class. Every Monday and Wednesday, I pass the source of much of the campus' power and the thing is, it doesn't even register half the time what that amount of coal actually means.
The Sierra Club has launched a campaign against the 60 universities that openly house coal-fueled power plants and in an article in The New York Times
, it becomes obvious that a place of higher learning is not the sort of institution that should be endorsing coal as a primary energy source. The Sierra Club has not yet targeted the University of Kentucky in its initial sweep of 22 schools, but it will happen. Until then, it seems that coal will continue to be an issue on campus, especially in a state that has such abundant amounts of the resource.
In recent UK news, Joe Craft and the "Difference Makers" (a.k.a. Friends of Coal) have pledged $7 million to the building of a new basketball dorm contingent on the new facility working the word "coal" somewhere into its name. Now, is it just me, or does this seem a little too much? Yet I suppose that's really what the name game is about when it comes to donors. I mean, our library, The William T. Young Library, could be nicknamed the Jif Peanut Butter Library, because that's where his money came from. We all know that anything with the name Carnegie attached to it is worth its weight in steel because that's where that money came from. So is it really so much of a stretch to imagine that Joe Craft, chief executive officer of Alliance Resource Partners (a diversified coal producer and marketer), would want the people of Kentucky to know exactly how the university came by such a generous donation?
The fact is, Kentucky is a coal state. We see this in every coal slurry pond that contaminates the Ohio River's tributaries and in every scalped mountaintop on the eastern half of the state. Kentucky means coal because that's all it knows. For a state that has had so much of its resources taken (willingly, might I add, because it keeps the food on the table) from the only thing we possess that remains intransient in a world filled with increasing globalization and materialization, one would think that someone would stop to say something. This is what the Sierra Club is trying to accomplish. We need to think more about where our energy (and state-appropriated funds) is coming from, because the truth is, Kentucky, they're taking it out of our hides.