Research Needs in Illinois' Planning for the Future. William W. Shilts, Illinois State Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources, Champaign, Illinois 61820-7463
Illinois' need for future research on energy and the environment centers on the widening recognition that the use and production of energy are closely tied with environmental quality on multiple scales. To manage these interrelationships remains a formidable challenge. Energy supplies must be reliable, readily available, and affordable to sustain and support the Illinois economy. In many cases, the availability and price of critical fuels in current use, namely petroleum and natural gas, are heavily dependent on events well outside the boundaries of this state. However, where and how primary fuels are used in Illinois is more subject to the state's influence. We need to recognize, for example, that the large quantities of water required for electric generation are part of a finite resource and that growth in population and other development will also make demands on that same water supply. We need to support the national research effort on safe storage of nuclear wastes, an issue that must be addressed given the number of nuclear generation plants that now supply electricity for this state. We need to more widely use advanced planning tools, such as Geographic Information Systems, and build the comprehensive bases of geological, biological, hydrological, and atmospheric data that will allow us to make the best planning decisions for Illinois.
Illinois' largest endowment of energy is in the form of coal, a fuel that requires significant cleanup of emissions to meet environmental standards. Substantial progress has been made in this emissions-reduction effort. New and emerging technologies can play a role in enabling coal use while meeting environmental standards during the years before other potential fuels, such as hydrogen, and increasing quantities of renewables, come into wide use. Illinois has the opportunity to contribute substantially to these new technologies not only for the sake of its own environmental quality but for the sake of global environmental quality. We have the opportunity to be a leader in this area, however we view the desirable mix of energy sources decades into the future, because advanced technologies developed in Illinois can not only help assure our own energy security and the quality of the Illinois environment, but are also applicable world wide.
Finally, we need to be alert to the trends and interrelationships that we see developing around us. These include the opportunities for dialogue that this conference has presented and the changes we will see in the future. We are headed for a less regulated and more market-driven system of energy distribution. Supplying the information base that the state and its citizens need to make informed decisions on energy supplies and environmental considerations for the future will be a key undertaking in itself.Back to the Energy Conference