The university’s Board of Trustees, in a secret meeting with Duke Climate Coalition, Duke Seize the Grid, and Duke Green Devils last Saturday at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club, has reached a historic compromise regarding the proposal by Duke Energy to build a new natural gas plant on campus.
An anonymous source on the Board of Trustees alerted The Chronicle that the members of the Board and student-led environmental groups had been meeting regularly behind closed doors for several weeks finalizing the details of the agreement, which our source described as “a way to meet Duke’s financial and energy needs while keeping our carbon footprint low—a perfect solution that makes everyone happy.”
Under the new agreement, Duke Energy will work with faculty in the Pratt School of Engineering to develop the world’s first money-burning power plant. Instead of using natural gas, the proposed plant will instead directly burn up Duke students’ tuition.
President Richard Brodhead, speaking on behalf of the Board of Trustees, praised the decision. “I am so glad that we can finally be transparent about what the last few tuition hikes were really about. We’ve finally been able to increase the university’s endowment to the point where we can sustainably power a generator with the dollar bills and checks that are sent in each year to pay housing, tuition, and dining costs for students.” Brodhead also publicly thanked David M. Rubenstein, who has pledged to make his future donations to the university only in one-dollar bills in order to maximize the energy yield per dollar.
Reactions from the Duke and Durham communities have been mixed. Several faculty in the economics department have already expressed concern that burning currency at such a large rate could lead to unintended consequences on the rate of inflation and have larger effects on the economy. However, it remains to be seen if the environmental benefits of reduced emissions will offset these costs.
Representatives from Duke Energy embraced the compromise. “I can’t believe we didn’t think of this earlier,” a Duke Energy executive was overheard saying to a Trustee while leaving the Washington Duke Inn. “It’s a win-win-win. We still get the satisfaction of solidifying our electricity monopoly with unsustainable fuel, those student hippies get to stop worrying about methane emissions, and the University gets one more way to burn up students’ savings.”
A recent poll by the Duke Student Government Research Unit found student opinions on the cash-burning power plant to be mixed, with 34 percent supporting its construction and 25 percent opposed. According to the DSGRU report, the other 41 percent of respondents smugly suggested burning copies of The Chronicle instead. The report also predicted that tensions will likely increase as campus debate around the money-burning plant swells over the next few days, and recommended that DSG allocate emergency funding for events that “foster honest and productive dialogue surrounding the issue in a safe environment.” Make sure to look out for new aromatherapy and meditation rooms popping up on campus as a result.
Student-led political groups have also begun weighing in. The latest e-mail announcement on the Duke Democrats listserv has endorsed the agreement, citing it as another success in the new Democratic Party tradition of questionable compromises.Across the aisle, Duke Campus Republicans have also supported the new agreement. A Facebook post by DCR compared the “fiscal responsibility” of the Board of Trustees to that of President Trump.
The new plan does have its critics, however. Jim Warren, executive director at NC WARN, is still not satisfied with the proposal. The Chronicle attempted to organize a panel discussion with him and other NC WARN staff, but were soon intercepted by a team of Duke Energy lawyers, who explained that North Carolina state law required Warren and his staff to pay steep fines before setting up any sort of panel.
The Chronicle also attempted to reach faculty in the Nicholas School of the environment for comment, but only received email responses that appeared to be produced by repeatedly bashing a human head onto a keyboard instead of attempting to type coherent words and phrases.
Eidan Jacob is a Trinity junior. His column, "barely functional" runs on alternate Tuesdays.
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