How Penn State Is Cutting Greenhouse Emissions In Half — And Saving Money


Welcome how can a community grow in population while cutting carbon emissions that is the challenge facing the whole planet in the fight against climate change NPR's Dan Charles reports on how Penn state university is doing that from the top of beaver stadium one of the very biggest stadiums in the entire world you can see just part of Penn state's vast and beautiful campus he picked a spectacular data come visit the new rob Cooper is the university's director of engineering and energy we've got six hundred major buildings here over twenty two million square feet parking lots with thousands of cars the couple of gas burning steam plants for heating we have our own water system wells we have our own waste water plant basically it's a city with sixty thousand people and students on campus a lot more when there's football. and like most American cities it runs largely on fossil fuels releasing hundreds of thousands of tons of greenhouse gases every year from those steam plants from power stations far away that supply electricity from the cars the people drive to campus from aircraft that faculty take to conferences. state has added up all those emissions over the past twenty years and it makes kind of an amazing graph twenty years ago the line was going up up up the university was growing more people more buildings burning more coal and gas just like the rest of America and then you get to two thousand four and the line suddenly changes direction it starts falling like it's rolling down a mountain and it's been falling ever since even though the university still growing yeah we've been pretty successful over the last fifteen years I wanted to know how it happened so I went to see professor Chris you'll in the department of biology and my I guess Passionist with ecology in the mid nineteen nineties you'll helped organize a small environmental movement on campus there were students calculating greenhouse emissions from specific buildings looking at technical alternatives when we unveil these different reports we would meet on the steps of old main which is you know and stuff like this big center the university and lots of people showed up you know the press was there they put the university under pressure and as it happened these activists had some allies deep inside the university administration building engineers maintenance guys led by a former navy officer named Ford striker who was in charge of buildings and construction we've seen a lot of evidence that global warming was a real thing and we you know we were concerned about it striker pulled off a classic bureaucratic move he convinced the university president to declare environmental stewardship an official priority the pressure from students probably helped this give them leverage inside the administration he got the university to set up a fund to pay for upgrades that cut greenhouse emissions it took awhile. to get the budget guys and you know in the finance guys to agree but you know we're like they they had to be convinced that it was money that could be paid back yeah heck yeah I mean we had to demonstrate to we're actually saving money and this is what turned around that graph of greenhouse emissions a whole bunch of projects that cut the university's demand for energy and they typically paid for themselves within ten years through lower energy bills rob Cooper who worked for strikers as some what they did was really basic like fine tuning heating and air conditioning systems and you'd be surprised what you find when you try

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