OU may pass gas costs on

(U-WIRE) ATHENS – Ohio University budget cuts and a drastic increase in natural gas prices have brought a sense of urgency to the need to conserve energy on campus.

This was evident in a university-wide e-mail that Ron Chapman, Ohio University’s director of energy management, sent last week. In the message, he urged faculty, staff and students to reduce energy consumption, adding that natural gas prices are 60 to 65 percent higher this year than last, and that OU’s coal supplier, Pioneer Coal, is predicting increases around 20 to 25 percent. The estimated effect is a $1 million to $1.2 million increase for those two fuels this fiscal year, he wrote.

“(OU) is already in a budget cut; 17 staff members (from Facilities and Auxiliaries) have been cut and we are in reduction mode,” Chapman said, adding he does not want to burden students with additional tuition increases or more cuts in programming or staff.

Last year OU spent about $1.1 million on coal and about $2.1 million on natural gas, but it could be worse, Chapman said. OU runs primarily on coal, which costs one-seventh the price of natural gas, saving OU $7 each time it chooses to use coal instead of natural gas, he said.