The NCAA basketball season traditionally brings to the Piedmont region of North Carolina the Tobacco Road battles between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, the private school in Durham about 12 miles to the northwest (actually 10.79 miles from the Dean Dome to Cameron Indoor Stadium).
But what I’m wondering is why a coal war hasn’t erupted between the two institutions.
In the last couple of weeks, much hand-wringing has occurred on the UNC campus regarding the fact that the campus burns coal to generate heat for the university buildings. Rather than burning it in eastern Tennessee or western North Carolina where the mercury and sulfur dioxide can be left unseen with poor Appalachian folk, it came to light the the state’s flagship university burns coal on its campus. Most of the discussion centered on whether or not UNC buys their coal from companies known to use the environmentally-less friendly approach of mountaintop removal. This latest discussion was sparked, as it were, during a recent visit by climate scientist James Hansen and an accompanying rally by local members of the Sierra Club.
It seems to have come as a revelation to some that the university uses coal as an energy source. Yet activists are pushing for a “coal-free UNC.”
Uhhhh, suuure. Let’s put a nuclear power plant in Carrboro. (for those outside NC, think Boulder, Berkeley, Bozeman)
But rather than pointing fingers at one another across the UNC campus, Tar Heels should look in solidarity across town at a common enemy: their archrival, Duke.
Back when I was well enough to go to Duke’s Medical Center library, I would drive up Coal Pile Drive to see if there was any short-term parking. Yes, Coal Pile Drive (map):
Hey, Tar Heels! Duke has a big-ass pile of coal that they burn too! Right across the street from all kinds of research labs from neurobiology to their institute for the environment.
Rather than examine one’s own inevitable need for coal and lack of any plausible alternative, blame Duke.
Does it solve the problem? No.
But doesn’t it just feel better to blame Duke?