Members of the new student group Clean Energy Now plan to present a letter to President Barry Mills and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley today urging the College to purchase 100 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources of energy. Such electricity is produced by wind power, hydropower, or biomass, and not by fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases.

As of press time, the group had also gathered over 430 signatures for a petition and it plans to soon begin a faculty and staff letter drive.

The 13 students from the new group who signed the letter?many of whom have been active with Sustainable Bowdoin and the Evergreens?wrote, "There is no better opportunity to fulfill...our commitment to the common good than through the purchase of renewable energy for the campus."

"We ask that the College commit to a purchase of 100 percent renewable energy in its coming contract, which will demonstrate its continuing commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility," they continued.

Ben Smith '06, a member of Clean Energy Now, said there are several ways the College can achieve the use of electricity from exclusively renewable sources of energy, one of them being buying renewable energy credits. The College could also simply switch to an entirely green source of energy for its electricity.

"It doesn't matter to us how they do it," he said, as long as they achieve 100 percent renewable-energy electricity use.

When contacted by the Orient, Longley said she wanted to see the letter and petition before responding to the group's drive. She did not respond to questions regarding the amount of clean-energy electricity the College currently uses, when its next electricity purchase would be, the potential financial costs of buying 100 percent of the College's electricity from renewable sources, and her views on the feasibility of the plan.

"I think we have taken many steps to be more environmentally responsible with our energy purchases and energy use at Bowdoin. But there is more to do," she said. "The challenge is balancing the environmental goals with the realities of our budget. Right now especially, we are dealing with a highly volatile energy market in terms of pricing."

Asked how the group might respond if the administration says the plan is too costly, Clean Energy Now member Katherine Kirklin '07 said, "It is affordable. If money is a problem, it is just a matter of finding the appropriate purchase" since there are many options. She said schools all over the country with smaller endowments have taken big steps.

In its letter, the group also wrote, "As students of differing values and disciplines, we recognize that committing to 100 percent renewable energy is a large responsibility that would require financial readjustment and foresight. However, a decisive step to fulfill our responsibility to the local, regional, and global community, as well as to future generations, is precisely what we are asking."

The College uses oil and gas to heat much of the campus during the winter, and most of its vehicle fleet is gas-powered, though the student plan does not take issue with either of these aspects of Bowdoin's total energy use.

"I think the administration is open to [our plan]. All signs point to yes. This is the logical next step," Kirklin said.

Longley has sent out two all-campus emails this year outlining detailed ways to reduce energy consumption. The College has also signed Governor John Baldacci's "Carbon Challenge" this year?a voluntary program dedicated to significantly cutting carbon emissions by 2010.

In a college press release in January, Longley was quoted using very similar language to that which is planned to appear in the letter to her today.

"By volunteering for the Governor's Carbon Challenge, Bowdoin is stepping up to show our commitment to being good environmental stewards, and carrying on the College's principle of working for the common good," said Longley.

Bowdoin said in the press release that its target goal would be to cut carbon emissions directly and indirectly by 11 percent and that it would do so through actions including lowering winter building temperatures from 72 to 68 degrees, buying a hybrid car, changing the types of fuel oil used on campus, buying geothermal heating systems for construction projects, running an energy conservation dorm competition, and buying energy-efficient computer monitors, to name a few.

The plan to buy 100 percent renewable-energy electricity would go beyond the minimum requirements of the governor's challenge, the students said.

The students cited as inspirations environmental writer Bill McKibben and New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin, both of whom have spoken on campus recently, as well as articles by New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman that have "emphasized the responsibility of institutions of higher learning to serve as leaders in the fight against global warming, as they did during the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s," said the group in the letter.

Members of the group also said they were particularly inspired after attending the Northeast Climate Conference earlier this month at Yale University.

The letter said that Colby, Bates, and the College of the Atlantic have all committed to purchasing 100 percent renewable energy electricity.

"Colleges from Connecticut to California are taking initiative and making the switch to accountable, clean energy," the group said.

"We hope the petition will put pressure [on the administration] in a non-aggressive way...this is the right thing to do, and is in line with the values of the students and the school," said Kirklin. "This is an opportunity for students to say they care [about clean energy] in a quantifiable way."

Group members Holly Kingsbury '07, Kate Hourihan '07, and Jonna McKone '07 agreed.

"People in Maine are looking to Bowdoin. Now is the time that there is widespread student interest," said Kingsbury. "This is an opportunity for the school to set the bar for energy use in the country."

The group has used the student digest to publicize its drive. This week Kingsbury added a listing that said, "Climate change is the challenge of our generation. Let's rise to it."

Hourihan added, "There is a responsibility for institutions with resources like Bowdoin [to act]."

Kirklin said last year a student group with similar aspirations was unsuccessful in its drive.

Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry Laurence commended the students of Clean Energy Now for their efforts.

"I think it's an excellent idea, and I applaud heartily the students for taking the initiative. There's a lot of empty rhetoric about breaking the nation's addiction to oil, but this is a very positive and practical step for the college to take to help tackle a serious issue," he said.

Zachary Linhart '07, a member of the College Republicans, was not as quick to jump on board. He said he likes the concept of Bowdoin buying the cleanest energy, but that such a step should not get in the way of top priorities like providing good housing for students.

"I think clean energy is a great idea, but we're paying a lot to go here so it may not be worth the money if it [adds pressure to] raise tuition," he said.

McKone said climate change is an issue "far beyond environmental protection," and that she hopes the College makes a decision about its next energy purchase in a transparent way.

"This is a great opportunity to at the very least educate students," she said.