Governor Rendell goes green

Only hours after signing a repeal of a controversial congressional pay raise, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell visited Carnegie Mellon last Wednesday to speak to the campus community on his plans for turning Pennsylvania into a ?greener? state.

?The reason I chose Carnegie Mellon is because of the great work of the Steinbrenner Institute in its efforts to make the campus more environmentally friendly,? commented Rendell. However, CMU is not the only intended stop. ?We plan on going to places throughout the state,? he said, ?to give the same presentation we gave in Harrisburg on our plan for alternative energy.?

The Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research, or SEER, has been leading the initiative for environmentally friendly practices on campus since 1990. Recent SEER projects include the purchasing of wind energy to power five percent of campus facilities, the construction of New House as the first green student dormitory in the country, and, most recently, the installation of a living roof on top of Hamerschlag Hall.

SEER endorsed the governor?s presentation on Wednesday because he stressed the importance of green practices. ?As oil consumption increases, we need to find ways to be independent of that diminishable supply,? Rendell said.

The governor?s new energy portfolio calls for an increase of 18 percent in the amount of alternative energy the state uses. ?Alternative energy means lots of different things to lots of different people,? said CMU professor Jay Apt, one of SEER?s faculty members. ?In this context it means an energy source which is able to produce at affordable costs with less externalities than petroleum.?

Currently, of the 18-percent increase, eight percent is derived from renewable energy sources such as wind and hydro. According to the Governor?s website: ?The Gamesa Corporation has worked out 600 megawatts? worth of agreements to sell wind-generated power to Pennsylvania utilities, with a goal of reaching 1000 megawatts, enough to power more than 300,000 homes.?

The remaining 10 percent incorporates the use of an alternative way to process coal. ?Right now coal-fired power plants make up roughly half of all power plants in the U.S,? said Apt. ?The U.S. basically has a higher percentage share of the world?s supply of coal than Saudi Arabia has a share of the world?s oil.?

Yet, even with the above figure, Governor Rendell claims that ?there are 8529 acres of unreclaimed coal refuse piles, including at least 258 million tons of waste coal, that scar the landscape and cause pollution.?

A process called coal gasification turns the unwanted coal into liquid form, ensuring a cleaner-burning energy source. The governor said this was a promising way to use the waste coal.

Governor Rendell emphasized coal gasification as a primary source for alternative energy, adding, ?Pennsylvania is building the first such refineries in 30 years.?

These plans were included in a bill signed on July 13 titled ?Growing Greener II.? The governor intends for his plans to be carried out within six years of the bill?s signing.

Until then, Governor Rendell plans to continue sharing his portfolio for a more environmentally friendly energy standard in different locations across the state.