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Wednesday, June 18, 2008 03:39 pm

So fresh and so clean

The road to cleaner air starts in the Soy City

Untitled Document Beginning next week in Decatur, Illinois environmentalists will try to rally support for a tough set of regulations on greenhouse-gas emissions with a series of town-hall meetings to take place throughout the year and into next year’s legislative session.
Known as the Global Warming Response Act and introduced in both chambers of the Legislature, the bill aims to clear the air in Illinois by rolling back pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. The proposal encourages the use of alternative fuel sources, mandates the use of energy-efficient furnaces and building codes in new residential construction, and establishes standards for low-carbon motor fuels and clean cars.
Jonathan Goldman, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, which is sponsoring the community meetings, says that news reports tend to focus on the benefits of replacing traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescents and other cost-cutting measures. This is a good starting point, he says, but more needs to be done: “The best impact people can have independently is to educate themselves about the issues and reach out to legislators and say, ‘This is a top priority of mine and I’d like it to be a top priority of yours.’ ”
He adds that imposing more rigorous state vehicle-emissions standards is part of an effort by 14 Midwestern states that would discourage auto manufacturers from making one version of their cars for so-called clean-fuel states and another model for non-clean-fuel states, creating “a de facto national policy.”
Provisions of the global-warming bill also include decreases in greenhouse-gas emissions over the next 12 years and implementation of a cap and trade program. Such programs, put in place to combat acid rain during the 1980s, involve the capping pollutants and auctioning of greenhouse-gas credits to polluters such coal-burning power plants. That’s good news for Springfield’s public utility, City Water, Light & Power, as well as city taxpayers, says Illinois Sierra Club regional representative Becki Clayborn. In 2006 the Sierra Club struck an agreement with the city to cut emissions at its new 200-megawatt coal-fired plant, now under construction. “Springfield will be in a good position because they are already reducing their greenhouse gas emissions due to our agreement, which means that they will be buying less than other plants of that size,” Clayborn says. The first town-hall meeting — “Climate Change: How Does It Affect Decatur?” — takes place at the Decatur Public Library, 130 N. Franklin, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 24. Forums will also be held in Champaign, Peoria, and Belleville.
Goldman says that many people may not understand how their lives will be affected by global warming, which, he says, is often presented in abstract terms. “You always see articles about the ice caps melting and the polar bears dying,” he says, “but do people understand what it’s going to mean for the future of agriculture in Illinois 40 years from now?”

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com.
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