Climate-neutral policy not realistic for Fairbanks

Posted: Monday, November 23, 2009

FAIRBANKS - A climate neutral policy is not realistic for the Fairbanks campus, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks administrators.

Hundreds of university chancellors and presidents around the country have signed a pledge to steer their campuses toward a climate neutral policy on greenhouse gas emissions. But administrators don't expect the University of Alaska Fairbanks to join them anytime soon.

Chancellor Brian Rogers said he's been asked by students and faculty to sign the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment. But he said he doesn't think it's a realistic goal for a campus in an extreme cold weather environment.

"I can't figure out how we can heat this campus without any carbon," Rogers said last week.

He said it's impossible to keep the school running in the winter without using large amounts of coal to fuel the campus power plant. Rogers said fuel sources beyond coal and oil are hard to implement at the Fairbanks campus.

Natural gas is not available and fueling a new campus power plant with wood would require 50 square miles of forest per year, he said.

A nonprofit environmental organization, Second Nature, is lobbying university leaders to sign the Climate Commitment pledge since it was unveiled in 2007. It asks universities to cut and offset their carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to neutralize their effect on global warming.

University leaders who sign the pledge agree to inventory their greenhouse gas emissions, set a target date for "climate neutrality" and take actions that will lead to that goal.

The pledge also recommends that universities purchase energy from renewable sources and offset emissions generated by air travel.

More than 650 chancellors and presidents have signed the commitment in the past two years, said Second Nature spokeswoman Gina Coplon-Newfield. Alaska Pacific University President Douglas North and former University of Alaska Anchorage Chancellor Elaine Maimon are among the administrators who have signed up, according to the organization's Web site.

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