College and university campuses are places to debate and experiment with new ideas. Unfortunately, a few of the “bright ideas” turn out not to be so practical, or ethical. Then we can be thankful that the consequences were limited to a campus and weren’t inflicted on society at large.
One ivory-tower idea with less than ideal consequences is the popular “campus sustainability initiative.” The National Association of Scholars recently released a report showing that colleges trying to reduce their environmental impact (e.g., a “carbon neutral” goal) have spent huge amounts of money, for little to no gain. Middlebury College, for example, pledged in 2006 that it would be “carbon neutral” by 2016. So it has spent almost $5 million a year (over $2,000 per student) on things like a biomass plant, organic food for the dining hall, and (largest line item of all) staff and faculty tasked with improving sustainability. For all of this, the college—over a period of seven years—has reduced CO2 emissions by about 7 thousandths of the amount emitted by a coal-fired power plant in a single year. Even if one accepts the $39/ton figure the Obama administration’s has stated as the value of reducing carbon dioxide (and I, for one, am skeptical), Middlebury has greatly overpaid—its costs come to about $543 per ton. For more on this, click here.
The featured image is courtesy of EnergyAlmanac.ca.gov, The image is of “the Wheelabrator Shasta Energy Company power plant (biomass plant) in Anderson, California.”