In the hopes that the University will become a leader in solving the problem of global warming, a group of more than 100 alumni sent a letter to President Lee Bollinger asking that the University commit itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Requesting a reduction of “7 percent below its estimated 1990 levels by the year 2012,” the Michigan Alumni for Global Warming Action”s effort is being coordinated by the Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest.
“This is an opportunity for the University to be a leader in helping to solve the problem of global warning,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based ELPC and a University alum.
Learner and Environmental Business Specialist Lauren Sharfman said the ELPC was encouraged by the environmental sustainability programs already in place at the University.
“U of M has been such a leader in progressive initiatives this seems like a good fit,” Sharfman said.
Sharfman also added that the group hopes the University will provide “a model for other colleges” to follow in environmental initiatives against global warming.
Hank Baier, associate vice president for Facilities and Operations, said global warming is something the University always has taken into consideration.
“We”ve worked through a lot of initiatives and are always looking to improve upon programs,” he said.
Baier said the University already has a number of environmental initiatives that have indirectly reduced the emission of greenhouse gases. For example, numerous recycling programs of items such as soda cans and fluorescent light bulbs help reduce transportation and mining of products like aluminum and ballast.
The University also engages in a number of programs to increase energy efficiency. Its power plant is a cogenerational plant, meaning it produces steam and electricity. The steam is used to both heat and cool buildings and provides enough energy to supply the majority of the University”s power.
The power plant is run on natural gas, which produces about half the amount of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide two greenhouse gases that a coal plant does.
Another way in which the University cuts down on its greenhouse gas emissions is through the use of alternative fuel vehicles. One-third of the University”s fleet of vehicles run on alternative fuel, said Patrick Cunningham, Director of Parking and Transportation Services.
Cunningham said the University owns ethanol-fueled vehicles and seven electric pickup trucks. There are 117 more ethanol-fueled vehicles on order, he said.
Also, the University”s diesel-powered vehicles use a special fuel called bio-diesel, which is a mix of diesel fuel and a soy-based product. And the University recently purchased seven new buses that produce 97 percent fewer hydrocarbons, 87 percent less particulate matter and 28 percent less nitrous oxide than the 1988 buses in the fleet.
“We”ve done a lot of serious work and it”s been going on for a number of years,” Baier said, adding that discussions with the ELPC will be ongoing.