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Panelists discuss energy efficiency

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Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2009 12:00 am

Researchers of Penn State's energy future can agree the university needs to cut down on carbon emissions and energy usage, but the question is, "How?"

A roundtable discussion called Penn State's Energy Future was held to address issues regarding energy efficiency Wednesday night in the Berg auditorium.

Sponsored by the Rock Ethics Institute, Office of Physical Plant (OPP) and the Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, the event hosted seven panelists to discuss renewable alternatives to coal that will improve energy usage at Penn State.

Superintendent of Steam Services Paul Moser explained that Penn State currently burns about 75,000 tons of coal per


Although there have been improvements to lower fuel consumption, Moser said that as the university continues to expand, they need to find other sources of energy.

Different fuel sources could be an answer, but the change must be able to maintain Steam Services' reliability and productivity, Moser said.

Penn State Beyond Coal representative Rose Monahan (sophomore-English) then reasoned why Penn State needs to depend less on coal.

"Coal plants emit 40 percent of carbon emissions into the environment," Monahan said. "There's no reason to think that Penn State can't step up and be a leader to benefit our energy future."

Steve Maruszewski, deputy associate vice president of OPP, said Penn State has been able to cut emissions "dramatically" over the past few years by 12 percent.

But, he said the plant's goal is to reduce emissions to a total of 17.5 percent by 2012.

"But that relies on the university continuing to fund us in certain areas," Maruszewski said. "This is just phase one, and we have no intentions of stopping."

Maruszewski addressed the necessity to continue growth and expansion at Penn State, a factor some believe will only add to more carbon emissions.

More energy research is necessary, Maruszewski said, even if it means converting a current building and dedicating it to energy research.

Alex Devaux (junior-agriculture and biology engineering) offered a solution to the panel, advising Penn State to create motivation among students to reduce emissions by offering rewards or "kickbacks" to the dorm that uses the least amount of energy.

"Maybe if the dorms had incentives to lower their emissions, even $10 to each student -- that's a pizza right there," Devaux said. "Or students could get money back on their bursar accounts."

Students need to realize that every attempt to save energy counts, chemical engineering professor Wayne Curtis said.

"We don't think about it, but the reality is that people don't connect how long they sit in the shower with energy usage," Curtis said.

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