Goldberg: Environmentally friendly energy, for $3 per month

In recent years, Geneseo has been making remarkable and admirable efforts to become more environmentally conscious and energy efficient.

There is now one additional initiative I'd like the college to consider: the use of wind energy instead of coal to power the electricity in the residence halls.

Whenever electricity is provided to your residence, the power company that delivers it automatically selects the cheapest source of electricity for you as a default - usually coal. Generally, you can choose to switch to a renewable energy provider if like, but this usually costs a small amount more - usually about 1-3 cents per Kilowatt Hour (KWH) more than conventional coal electricity.

Geneseo is in the same situation. The electricity provided to the college is powered by coal, since coal is the cheapest source of energy. The college, however, could choose to switch to a renewable energy source if it was willing to pay more.

According to data on the residence halls from mid-August 2007 to mid-May 2008 (the academic year) provided by Bill Cox in facilities and compiled by professor Scott Giorgis of the geology department, the residence halls in operation for the 2007-08 school year used just over 4,000,000 KWH of electricity.

Assuming that it would cost just over two cents more per KWH to switch to wind power, it would cost the college approximately $97,000 per academic year more than what it is paying now for coal to switch to wind energy.

$97,000 is a lot of money. There would need to be a way to pay for that if the college were to commit to this change. One easy way to do so is to pass on the cost to students living in the resident halls as part of their housing bill. If you divide the extra cost by the number of students living on campus in residence halls, it would cost approximately $30 per on-campus resident per year to implement this change.

That's $15 per semester, or a 0.5 percent increase in the cost of a double room, according to the housing rates for the 2009-10 academic year. Broken down further, it would cost each on-campus resident just over $3 per month to contribute.

Are you willing to give up two trips to the vending machine per month to help the college change from coal to wind energy? What if I told you that you'd be helping to eliminate over 3,000,000 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions by doing so?

I don't know if the college has an option that allows students to volunteer to pay more to ensure a certain amount of electricity in the college is supplied by wind, but if that option does exist, I couldn't find it on the Geneseo Web site and I was never offered the opportunity. It would be incumbent on the school to make this option - if it exists - more easily found.

For those who would prefer solar panels, wind energy would have a much lower initial cost than solar power and so is a more viable immediate option considering the current state of the economy and our state budget.

For those who don't understand the concept of paying more for the same amount of electricity, I ask you to consider value outside of monetary measurement. Just for a moment, think of externalities as being real. Is a cleaner, safer, healthier environment worth $3 per month? I think so.

Jesse Goldberg is a sophomore English major who wants the campus to stop blowing hot air.