The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Is Illinois America's Next Clean Energy Leader?
By J.C. Kibbey
The Clean Energy Jobs Act that was introduced Thursday would move Illinois to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 and make the state a national leader in clean energy and climate action.
The bill (SB2132) would rapidly ramp up renewable energy in Illinois towards the 100 percent target by 2050, starting with a target of generating 45 percent of our electricity from renewable sources — and none from fossil fuels — by 2030. That rapid expansion of clean energy would place Illinois at the forefront of job growth, investments, customer savings and health benefits from renewable energy.
The bill would also grow the Illinois Solar for All Program by as much as 500 percent, expand cost-saving energy efficiency programs, and help us plan our electric grid in ways that avoid unnecessary costs and take advantage of increasingly cheap renewable energy.
Putting more renewables on the electric grid also makes it easier to clean up our transportation sector, which is now the largest source of carbon pollution in Illinois. Although electric vehicles already pollute less than gasoline-powered vehicles, as the electricity we use to charge those vehicles gets cleaner, we can reduce pollution even more. At the same time, electric vehicles paired with smart charging technologies can help our electric grid run more efficiently. The Clean Energy Jobs Act aims to take advantage of these opportunities while removing the equivalent of one million gasoline-powered vehicles off the road.
New incentives and infrastructure to support electric vehicles would help spur this process, including support for "light duty" electric vehicles like cars and trucks, which can save drivers money and create 70 percent less pollution than similar gas-powered vehicles. It would also include incentives to transition towards electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which is critical in part because many of today's heavy-duty vehicles run on diesel and cause serious health problems for people in communities with heavy truck traffic. The bill also pairs electric vehicle incentives with smart charging programs to ensure that electric vehicles can charge at "off-peak" hours (such as late at night) when electricity is relatively cheap, plentiful and clean. Finally: in addition to expanding electric vehicles, Illinois should expand non-motorized transportation options like walking, biking and mass transit, which could be included in a capital bill.
Jobs and Equity
The transition to a clean energy economy promises benefits to our health (as we saw in 2016), our climate and our pocketbooks. It also creates jobs: Illinois is already home to nearly 120,000 clean energy jobs. Statewide, about one in every 50 workers is in the clean energy sector. In rural Illinois, clean energy already employs twice as many people as fossil fuels, and those jobs are growing at 5 percent a year even as the total number of jobs in rural areas has declined. The massive expansion of renewable energy envisioned in this bill would grow those impressive numbers even further.
But the benefits of our energy transition must be equitably distributed, and the jobs it creates must be good-paying and accessible. The transition must prioritize economic opportunity for people of color, people who live in environmental justice communities, and workers impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act centers these priorities through Clean Energy Empowerment Zones, which allocate economic development resources to communities impacted by the transition away from fossil fuels, and the creation of Clean Jobs Workforce Hubs. These hubs are workforce development pipelines that begin with recruitment conducted in partnership with community groups, unions and others, and which prioritize recruiting people of color, people from marginalized communities, and displaced fossil fuel workers. They include training programs with stipends to help trainees meet living expenses, transportation, child care, and other needs while they develop their skills. Renewable energy developers will be incentivized to hire diverse workers, including graduates of these training programs.
What's Next for the Clean Energy Jobs Act
The Clean Energy Jobs Act was developed with the input of people all over Illinois, in nearly 70 public discussions across rural, urban and suburban communities, from Chicago to Carbondale, with participants of all ages and racial backgrounds.
With a newly-elected governor who supports 100 percent renewable energy, recent national polls showing that 85 percent of registered voters want to move their states entirely to renewable energy by 2050, and the ambitious Clean Energy Jobs Act gathering sponsors in the legislature, Illinois is poised to be a model for clean energy leadership — not just in the Midwest, but in the world.
Beyond the numbers and the policy details, that would mean cleaner air and water, more jobs, healthier people and a livable world for our kids.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.