Peabody donates $1.5 million to Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization

| Senior News Editor

Peabody Energy, a founding member of the Washington University Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization, donated $1.5 million to the center this May.

The CCCU is a center for research in advanced coal and carbon capture technologies. Their stated objective is to make coal a safer and more affordable source of energy, with minimal impact on the environment.

With this most recent donation, Peabody’s overall contribution to the center will reach $6.5 million since the consortium was established in 2008. In general, donations fund new research projects, facilities, and outreach activities involving clean coal. The research projects are conducted by faculty from both Washington University and international partner universities. In total, the program has completed 24 research projects, 114 peer-reviewed papers and one book.

Director of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization (CCCU) Richard Axelbaum noted that Peabody’s strong partnership exhibits their commitment to improving carbon technology.

“With their recent contribution to the CCCU, Peabody is continuing their support of groundbreaking research at Washington University with a goal of improving the environment,” Axelbaum said.

The consortium is a part of the International Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (InCEES), which was established in 2007 as a larger effort to coordinate research on energy, environment, and sustainability.

Despite this goal, there has been a history of student controversy with the consortium. In September 2017, a number of members of Green Action—an environmental justice student group —called for the center to change its name, believing that the term “clean coal” implies that there is a way for coal to be “pollution-free.”

These members reached out to alumni, who created a petition pledging to withhold donations from the University unless it discontinues the CCCU and divests from fossil fuel companies. The petition claimed that the consortium “legitimizes an impractical and short-sided solution to carbon emissions.”

Allie Lindstrom, a member the Fossil Free WashU campaign, believes that the name discludes the other problems associated with the use of coal.

“Regardless of what Peabody’s donating to the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization, our stance is that coal can never, ever be clean. It’s a misleading name,” Lindstrom said. “Whether or not you’re able to capture all the carbon that’s emitted by burning coal, there are so many other aspects of coal that are harmful to communities where it’s mined, where it’s burned, and where its byproducts are stored… Calling it clean coal only addresses one of the problems.”

Coal provided 30 percent of the United States’ total electricity generation in 2017, and 37 percent worldwide. Peabody Director of Corporate Communications Charlene Murdock emphasized that coal is integral to energy production, and that Peabody is dedicated to reducing the emissions that already exist.

“Coal remains an essential part of the world’s energy mix, and technologies are central to continuing to reduce the emissions profile,” Murdock wrote in a statement to Student Life. “The consortium has a strong network of global universities and academicians who are all working toward low-carbon systems, and we are pleased to support this work in a meaningful way.”

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