An open letter to Secretary Chu

Todd Zimmer, Jenny Marienau, Kady McFadden, Melissa Legge, William Fischer, Fernando Cutz, Chase Sackett & Jeff Nelson

Dear Secretary Chu,

We at Washington University in St. Louis are excited that you will be visiting our University to deliver the 2010 Commencement address. The graduating class you will address is, like the larger student body, deeply concerned by the challenge climate change poses to this, and future generations. We sincerely admire your leadership and commitment to addressing this threat, and it is our hope that you will inspire us in our search for solutions to the gravest problem of our time.

As you prepare for your visit to Washington University, we wish to make you aware of recent developments in campus culture regarding energy and environmental issues. As you know, Washington University hosts a research program entitled the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization. While many students support the scientific research being conducted by the Consortium, the student body has taken serious issue with the title under which the research is conducted. Last November, the Washington University Student Union unanimously passed a resolution condemning the phrase “clean coal” as “an industry marketing term intended to obscure negative effects of coal extraction, combustion, and disposal.” The Washington University student body has clearly and consistently articulated its view that “clean coal” is an advertising slogan inappropriate for use in a scientific context.

In light of formally expressed student opposition to its use, we respectfully request that you refrain from employing the term “clean coal” during your speech at our Commencement ceremony. If your speech requires reference to specific energy technologies, we respectfully request that you use their scientific names (e.g., “carbon capture and sequestration”). We believe that, in doing so, you will better educate your listeners.

As secretary of energy, you set the standard for dialogue on energy issues. We encourage you to carry forward an attention to rhetoric in your future speaking engagements, focusing on clear and ingenuous language in reference to energy technology.

We look forward to your visit.

Todd Zimmer, Class of 2010, Washington University Climate Justice Alliance
Jenny Marienau, Class of 2010, Washington University Climate Justice Alliance
Kady McFadden, Class of 2010, Washington University Climate Justice Alliance
Melissa Legge, Class of 2010, Washington University Climate Justice Alliance
William Fischer, Class of 2010, Washington University Climate Justice Alliance
Fernando Cutz, Class of 2010 President
Chase Sackett, Class of 2010, Former Speaker of the Senate
Jeff Nelson, Class of 2010, Former Student Union President

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.