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Congressman poses energy challenge

October 19, 2006

With the push for energy conservation on overdrive, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind,  D-La Crosse, extended a challenge, dubbed “The Greenest Generation Challenge,” to UW-River Falls during his visit to campus Oct. 17.

“Conservation of energy is already on the forefront,” he said. “This is a challenge to the students to declare energy independence.”

He said he is gearing the opportunity toward the younger generation because energy conservation is already known and practiced by young people.

“I want this to spark the imagination of educators and students alike,” Kind said. “We just want to complement what’s already happening on campus.”

His proposal will help pivot the current dependence of the country’s consumption of current fossil fuels, like oil from the Middle East, keeping in check the rising cost of energy that reflects the increase of tuition.

“The younger generation will get us out of the energy consumption we are in,” Kind said. “The more we become dependent on oil, the less incentive of a change.”

The fierce competition on using technology to find different sources for energy is what will drive the competition, he said, like available hybrid vehicles, which use hydrogen power.

“I’m convinced we can do this,” Kind said. “The younger generation on campus can drive this, but what is lacking is leadership.”

He said many steps can be taken by students, like reducing the use of water and electricity, turning off lights, recycling as much as possible, and buying local goods rather than shipping across the country or world.

The Eco Club at UW-RF is concerned about what its members can do with conservation, said senior Josh Madetzke, a member of the club and conservation major.

“The main thing is awareness,” he said. “We need to get more people involved in Eco Club.”

With more involvement, he said, the University will have more ideas and helping hands for the challenge of reducing energy dependency.

“We really have to step up in order to prove it,” Madetzke said. “I hope things get going for us. We all need to work together; it’s what it’s going to take.”

His plan extends to work with all universities and technical colleges in Wisconsin.

“We want to establish an outreach not just to our state, but to the entire country and world,” Kind said. “We want to find ways to partner with everyone.”

With acknowledgement from government officials like Kind, and administration on campus, students can drive the challenge, he said.

“I want to highlight the universities and take it to Washington [D.C.],” Kind said. “I want to show them what is going on throughout the country and in our state.”

Federally funded grants will be implemented to students and the University for any initial start-up costs to become more energy efficient, he said. The money will be pooled from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Mary Halada, vice chancellor for administration and finance, said a sub-committee has been set up within UW-RF’s strategic planning goals to work on energy conservation on campus, along with the proposal of Gov. Jim Doyle’s energy conservation program, UW Off the Grid Initiative.

“Students have already committed to this,” she said. “So we accept your challenge.”

The goal for students, Kind said, is to embrace and start on the conservation that needs to happen before fossil fuels are completely gone. Faculty, staff and administration can encourage and support the students’ efforts, ideas and plans in their own residence halls, classrooms and other buildings on campus.

“It takes the younger generation to kick us in the pants to get the ball rolling,” Kind said.
Changes in the daily lives of students, faculty and administrators do not need to happen, he said.

“Everyone just needs to be more creative as to what you are doing with energy,” Kind said. “I’m excited to see what will be happening on campus.