Robert Peters and Marcus C. Evans Jr.: Illinois should be leading the way for offshore wind on the Great Lakes

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Talk to anyone about politics in the last two months, and the two biggest issues on people’s minds are gas prices and inflation.

And for good reason. With no end in sight to Russia’s war on Ukraine, energy prices will continue to fluctuate as crude oil supply chains are disrupted. At their peak, gas prices, the main driver of inflation, rose above $5 a gallon. Our constituents are asking us what we can do here in Illinois about inflation.

Clean energy investments have the potential to protect against pain at the pump — not just in the next year, but in the decades to come. And, as climate change continues to produce more extreme weather, our winters will be colder and our summers hotter, increasing the energy supplies needed to keep homes and businesses at safe temperatures.

Illinois needs a new plan — one that will last for generations and harnesses the defining feature of the Great Plains: wind. Offshore wind power is nowhere to be seen on any of the Great Lakes, and Illinois should be leading the way in building offshore wind capability on Lake Michigan.

Not only does offshore wind power provide clean, sustainable energy day and night, but homegrown wind energy isn’t subject to the whims of Vladimir Putin, or any other geopolitical crisis, and it comes at a stable, reliable price. Once upon a time, offshore wind power was considered too expensive, but thanks to investments elsewhere in America and around the world, wind energy has become much more reasonably priced.

That’s why we’re sponsoring state legislation to create a Rust Belt to Green Belt Pilot Program, our chance to capture federal funds to build infrastructure and invest in workforce development for a Lake Michigan offshore wind pilot project.

Specifically, the legislation would enable Illinois to pursue federal funds to build an offshore wind port on Chicago’s Southeast Side, where generations of Black and brown residents have suffered the health consequences of living next to a high-pollution industry.

President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Climate Change includes new investments in offshore wind, and the historic climate change legislation passed by Democrats has millions of dollars of offshore wind funding as well.

The opportunity is there, and Illinois needs to act now. Many other states are competing for these funds — right now there’s $100 billion in offshore wind construction planned off the East Coast. There’s no reason for Illinois to lose out on this huge opportunity to build long-lasting green energy infrastructure that will create thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs in the same communities that have endured decades of environmental racism.

Illinois is fifth in the nation for clean energy jobs, and investing in offshore wind will keep Illinois on the path to sustainability and continued economic growth. Aug. 15-19 also marks American Clean Power Week, which showcases clean power as the lowest-cost, fastest-growing source of power in America. After the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act — the most comprehensive clean energy legislation in the country — Illinois has never been more ready to pioneer offshore wind.

Our state has a once-in-a-generation chance to get in early, benefit from this federal investment, and become a hub for Great Lakes offshore wind power. Doing so will ensure stable energy supply and prices, while creating thousands of jobs right here in Illinois.

As we gear up to return to Springfield this fall, we need to recognize the potential of clean energy to help ease the burden of volatile gas prices and ensure we aren’t forced to pay such high prices in the future for the energy we depend on every day.

State Sen. Robert Peters represents the 13th District. State Rep. Marcus C. Evans Jr. represents the 33rd District.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email letters@chicagotribune.com.

via Chicago Tribune

August 17, 2022 at 07:48PM

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