Energy Forum Dicusses Switch to Natural Gas

As a way to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions, Hamilton Village is considering bringing in a natural gas utility to the area. If the village votes in approval of the gas utility on April 17, Colgate University has decided to switch the campus’s second energy source from fuel oil #6 to natural gas. In response to a possible switch to natural gas, Colgate faculty and community organized an energy forum on April 3 to discuss the development of natural gas locally.

“In the Colgate administra-tion, the decision seems to be be-ing celebrated as a good thing be-cause natural gas is cleaner than oil. However, there didn’t seem to be a discussion about a broader range of issues surrounding the natural gas switch,” Associate Pro-fessor of Geography Peter Klepeis said. “We knew there were other faculty members and students who were concerned about the risks but didn’t have an opportunity to voice their concerns.”

The hour-long forum, “Energy, Community & Colgate,” was led by Klepeis, Assistant Professor of Biol-ogy Catherine Cardel??s and Interim Provost, Dean of the Faculty and Harold Orville Whitnall Professor of Geology Bruce Selleck. They spent the majority of the forum answering student and faculty questions and engaging in an open conversation with community members.

“We wanted to facilitate a deep-er, more multifaceted discussion of energy in a public way, with more transparency about why Colgate is making the decision and what the other alternatives are,” Klepeis said.

Assistant Professor of Geography Jessica Graybill monitored the con-versation between the three partici-pators and the faculty and students in attendance.

“Colgate has been pushing to-ward natural gas because it’s highly economically feasible,” Graybill said. “But we need to understand that there are many aspects of sustainability beyond economics – especially environ-ment and community sustain-ability – where I don’t think we’re doing as well with as we should be.”

The forum focused on the envi-ronmental hazards associated with natural gas and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), in addition to the al-ternatives to natural gas, especially with regards to other renewable en-ergy sources and drastic reduction in consumption.

Klepeis and Cardel??s agreed that adopting natural gas as a second form of energy would be a tacit endorsement of fracking, the environmentally-threatening technology used to extract much of natural gas.

“The switch to natural gas is explicitly endorsing hydraulic fracturing,” Cardel??s said dur-ing the energy forum.”We are telling our community, and the surrounding region, that it’s okay to drill.”

Faculty and students at the forum were also concerned that endorsing natural gas would mean taking away focus from reduction in personal consumption and renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Professors focused on the need to find another secondary energy source.

“This is a really great opportu-nity for Colgate to do something really exciting with renewable en-ergy. As an educational institute, we have the people at Colgate ca-pable of implementing this tech-nology…we could be leaders in the region in terms of renewable sources,” Cardel??s said.

A majority of the discussion was also focused on the responsi-bility held by Colgate, and other educational institutions, to edu-cate students in core curriculums about climate change and to help change consumption habits.

“Energy, Community & Colgate” was sponsored by the Upstate Institute, an initiative at Colgate aimed at educating students about the Central New York area and facilitating open dialogues between Colgate and the surrounding community.

Contact Cassidy Holahan at [email protected]