St. Louis is a good place to talk about coal. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 83.5% of the state’s energy comes from the black rock, making it one of the nation’s brownest states. St. Louis is home to the corporate headquarters of the two largest American coal extraction companies, Peabody Energy, and Arch Coal. Peabody Energy’s coal products fuel 10% of all U.S. electricity generation and 2% of worldwide electricity.

With the CEOs of both Peabody Energy and Arch Coal on Wash U’s board of trustees, as well as a heavily-funded coal energy research group, Washington University in St. Louis is a good place to talk about coal as well.

To continue campus dialogue on the role of coal in our future, Student Union will be hosting a debate between Fred Palmer, VP of Governmental Relations at Peabody Energy and Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, moderated by Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine. Mr. Nilles’s work with the Sierra Club aims to move the world economy toward an energy future powered by carbon emission-free energy by halting construction on new coal-fired plants, retiring existing coal-fired plants, and ending the mining and selling of US coal reserves on the international market.

The event will take place at Graham Chapel on Washington University’s Danforth Campus on Tuesday, April 27th, at 5:00pm. Doors will open at 4:30. Following the debate will be a reception in the nearby Danforth University Center’s Tisch Commons.

We hope you can join us for this exciting discussion on the viability of continued use of coal. We will be live-streaming the debate as well! If you can’t attend, please tune in (with your viewing party perhaps) here.


The students have spoken!

In response to demonstrated student outcry over the naming of the “Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization” and with momentum from last week’s flash mob protest, on Wednesday the Wash U Student Union Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the administration to change the Consortium’s name. See the Student Life article.

The vote came after a week of intense lobbying by students, during which senators received an extraordinary number of emails from constituents in support of the resolution. The resolution originated in last week’s session, but the vote was postponed until after a drafting session could be held to address senators’ concerns. Wednesday’s senate session was packed with supportive students who applauded after the resolution was passed in the first 15 minutes of the meeting.

A truncated version of the resolution reads (full version available here):

“Whereas, The term “Clean Coal” is an industry marketing term intended to obscure the negative effects of coal extraction, combustion, and disposal;

Whereas, The use of said term may invite doubt regarding the integrity of the research the Consortium conducts;

Whereas, The Student Union supports the research being done by the Consortium to develop safer and more effective coal utilization technology; and therefore be it

Resolved, That the Student Union strongly urges the Washington University administration to change the name of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization; and be it further

Resolved, That the Student Union urges that the Consortium’s research into future uses of coal include studies of the social and environmental effects of its extraction, combustion, and disposal.”

We look forward to open dialogue with the administration and invite any concerns and comments.

Viva la Resolution!

Pack the Senate!

November 9, 2009

This Wednesday Student Union Senate will consider a resolution that urges the University to remove the dishonest marketing term “Cl#@n Coal” from the name of the Consortium for Cl#@n Coal Utilization. “Cl#@n Coal” is an industry marketing term intended to obscure negative effects of coal extraction, combustion, and disposal. As an institute of higher education we must not insert such a counter-educational phrase into the public discourse on energy.

Come to the senate meeting Nov 11 at 9 pm in Simon Hall room 113 and speak your mind.

Email your senator ( asking him/her to support the upcoming resolution. A sample email:

Dear Senator _________ ,

This week the Student Union senate will consider a resolution that urges the University to remove the dishonest marketing term “Clean Coal” from the name of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization. As your constituent, I fully support this legislation and urge you to help it pass.

As a center for higher education and exceptional research, the prestige of Wash U is very important to me. As such, any actions on behalf of the university that could potentially cast doubt on the integrity of university research  are deeply unsettling. “Clean coal” is a industry-created marketing term that seeks to hide the negative impacts of coal extraction, combustion, and disposal, and it has no place at our university.

This issue is important to me as your constituent- I will attend the senate meeting on Wednesday night to demonstrate my support- and I request your assistance to pass the resolution,

Jane/Joe Constituent

The complete list of Senators is: Read the rest of this entry »

Something loud is afoot on our sleepy campus in St. Louis. Washington University students are beginning to re-discover what connects them. Students that have never successfully worked together have just executed the largest direct action on our campus. The target: big coal’s influence on our institution. Read the rest of this entry »