I am alarmed by Duke’s pursuit of fossil fuels through the natural gas combined heat and power (CHP) plant despite the University’s environmental stewardship. A new long-term commitment to natural gas would severely damage the Earth and Duke’s standing as a climate leader. Duke offers amazing “green” resources including the Nicholas School, Smart Home, and Sustainability Initiative. Is it worth compromising this legacy to pursue a project over 2,000 Duke Community members oppose?
President Trump devastatingly approved the Keystone Pipeline despite massive grassroots resistance. The utter disregard for the pipeline’s effects on climate change, clean water, and human health is disgraceful. Let’s avoid these mistakes with this natural gas proposal.
Duke has the unique opportunity change our state’s environmental policy, despite a climate-denying legislature. But if Duke approves the natural gas plant, institutions across North Carolina and the United States lose momentum to pursue clean energy.
Natural gas is obtained through fracking—which is linked to water contamination, earthquakes, asthma, and cancer—and its combustion produces devastating climate impacts. Locally, climate change is causing unsafe heat days, flooding and wildfires. Globally, this phenomenon leads to mass relocation, violent storms, ocean acidification, and species extinction. Duke could significantly reduce its contribution to these disastrous occurrences by rejecting a new natural gas facility.
Despite these criticisms, some people have questioned alternatives. Duke can create a 100 percent biogas-powered plant, but the biogas supply and implementation must first be confirmed. Duke should fulfill its Climate Action Plan by increasing renewable energy generation through deploying solar panels across campus. LED light bulbs, improved insulation and EnergyStar appliances would significantly reduce energy usage and the corresponding bill.
Rejecting the natural gas plant is the right thing to do, and is best for Duke and its stakeholders. I strongly urge the Board of Trustees to fulfill an integral part of the university’s mission to “maintain a place of real leadership in all that we do” by pursuing clean energy over fossil fuels.
- Elliot Davis (T'20)
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