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Thursday, April 13, 2006 06:43 am

Hot in here

Don’t count on politicians in Washington, D.C., to stop global warming

Three tornadoes in Springfield within a matter of days. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Melting polar ice caps. Such extreme weather events and climate changes are symptoms of global warming, says Colleen Sarna, the Global Warming Conservation Organizer for the Illinois Sierra Club — and it’s going to take local solutions to stop it. On March 22, the Sierra Club — along with a dozen University of Illinois at Springfield environmental-studies graduate students — locked horns with Springfield’s City Water, Light & Power and an auditorium full of electricians to voice their concerns about the municipal utility’s plans for a new coal-burning power plant. Emissions from plants such as the one proposed by CWLP, says Sierra Club regional representative Becki Clayborn, are among the top contributors to global warming despite the environmental safeguards the new plant will feature. In the view of Clayborn and many other environmentalists, governmental officials should be looking to curb overall energy consumption. Adopting city building codes that require energy efficiency would be one way to do this, Clayborn says. Although tougher codes might decrease consumption, they won’t replace the need for the new plant, CWLP regulatory-affairs manager Bill Murray told Illinois Times in March. But Sarna prefers an energy-efficiency-based approach to fossil fuels or nuclear energy — both of which, she notes, produce waste. “We don’t have to wait for the White House or Congress to take some kind of action,” Sarna says. “There hasn’t been much national support, so mayors across America are doing something.” She points out the solar panels atop the Art Institute of Chicago, $32,000 in utility savings for Salt Lake City when the city installed light-emitting-diode, or LED, traffic lights, and the trend in some municipalities toward replacing fleet vehicles with gasoline-electric hybrid cars.  Asked why hybrids should be pushed, as opposed to cars with significantly more fuel-efficient biodiesel engines, Sarna says that most Americans still drive gasoline-powered cars and aren’t familiar with alternative fuels. Hybrids, she says, “are a win, win, win.”
Colleen Sarna discusses how local governments can combat global warming at 7 p.m. Monday, April 17, at Lincoln Library, Seventh Street and Capitol Avenue. The event is co-sponsored by Pax Christi Springfield and the Sangamon Valley Group of the Sierra Club.
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