College examines alternatives to No. 6 heating oil

by Erin Lee | 11/10/14 6:33pm

11.11.14.news_.energy-power-plant_Danny-Kim
The College plans to transition away from No. 6 fuel by 2018.
Source: Danny Kim

The College will transition away from No. 6 heating oil — an inexpensive but environmentally harmful fuel source — following last weekend’s approval by the Board of Trustees. Though a timeline has not been formalized, the College plans to abandon No. 6 fuel by 2018, campus planning and facilities vice president Lisa Hogarty said.

Dartmouth is still considering its options for a new primary energy source, but the best alternative will most likely be natural gas, said New Energy Capital CEO Scott Brown, who has helped the College build models for transitioning.

The Board approved the project’s next phase, which will involve consulting energy companies on regulatory requirements and conducting town and state reviews, Hogarty said. The research will be financed with $1.6 million, she said.

“We would like to diversify our energy sources,” she said. “We need to engage with the community both at the town level and the state level to talk to them about opportunities to look at creating a facility where we could bring in natural gas and other types of renewable sources.”

Switching to natural gas as a primary energy source would lower air toxin emissions, require less fuel oil storage in Hanover and eliminate a significant amount of truck traffic downtown, Brown said.

He noted that other possible options for fuel include biomass and wood chips, but they require more storage and truck transport, given the College’s remote location, which would boost costs.

Sam Parker ’15, who works in the sustainability office, said she agrees that natural gas is the most economically feasible choice but wants the College to use a “basket of energy options.” Natural gas has its downsides, too, she said.

Divest Dartmouth, a student group calling on the College to withdraw its investments in 200 publicly traded companies with the largest known fossil fuel reserves, is circulating a petition for divestment that has nearly 1,200 signatures. Earlier this year, Hanlon tasked the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility to write a report explaining advantages and disadvantages of divestment. The group met for the first time in late September.

The report is expected to be completed by the end of the term and will not make any recommendations, committee member Ben Daly Tu’15 said.

Committee member Abhi Parajuli ’15 said the committee is reviewing academic literature to determine the ethical, financial and logistical implications of divestment.

“Within the subcommittee I’m fairly confident in saying that a lot of us are totally on board with the argument that climate change is a significant threat facing the planet and we need to do something about it,” Parajuli said. “What we’re less sure about, and this is why we do this research, is divestment the right angle?”

Parajuli is a member of The Dartmouth opinion staff.

If Dartmouth were to divest, it would be the first in the Ivy League to do so. In August, Yale University decided against divesting from fossil-fuel companies. Stanford University announced in May that it would no longer invest directly in coal mining companies, following a recommendation from the school’s responsible investment and licensing advisory panel.

“It’s about recognizing where we can change that system, thinking about how do we have an impact on the world, whether it’s where our fuel comes from or where our investments come from and what our investments do,” Leehi Yona '16, who is involved with Divest Dartmouth, said.

 

Chris Leech contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction appended (Nov. 11, 2014):

The initial version of this article included an off-the-record portion of an interview, which has been redacted. We apologize for the error.