"Green" Future with Alternative Fuels. Carol Werner, Executive Director, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Washington, DC 20001
Energy issues made headline news over the last year across the country because of concerns about power reliability, power shortages and run-ups in the price of electricity, natural gas and transportation fuels. At the same time there are continuing concerns about the environmental impacts of our existing energy portfolio in terms of air, land, and water pollution, including impacts on public health. The greatest environmental challenge of all - global climate change - has created international momentum among governments around the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the European Union just announced the adoption of policies to double the amount of renewable energy in their energy mix from 6 percent to 12 percent by 2010.
But the tragedies of September 11 have now created a new urgency. Issues of national energy security, reliance on oil imports and the growing trade deficit due to oil imports have always been important reasons -- along with environmental protection, climate change mitigation, international competitiveness and state/regional economic development -- to re-examine our energy posture and focus on building a cleaner, sustainable energy future. Now, addressing national energy security has come front and center in the eyes of policymakers. What does that mean about how we should think about energy? There is no panacea. However, going "green" - that is, dramatically increasing the amount of renewable energy that is used -- will help us on all these vulnerability fronts. Greater efficiency in every sector enables renewable energy to play an ever greater role. For example, advanced transportation technologies (e.g., electric hybrids) should be an important partner with biofuels.
Key for Illinois, and other states in the region, is a thorough assessment of the renewable energy resource base in the state. Illinois's agricultural sector can be a major player in helping harvest power and biofuels, whether from wind, crops, or agricultural waste streams including animal manure, providing a new revenue stream as well as alleviating potential environmental problems.
It is important to ensure that we look holistically at the overall benefits and costs and the sustainability of the resource base. Many values/benefits have not been reflected in the market and in existing policies which, therefore, often has sent conflicting, if not perverse, signals. Policy changes and leadership will be required to overcome market barriers holding back development and utilization of "green" energy in all of our economic sectors. An overarching goal should be to capture the synergies possible among economic development and job creation, environmental protection and reduction of greenhouse emissions and enhancement of national energy security. Certainly the Spire Solar project with the city of Chicago is such an example. The state's strong industrial base can be a potent partner in deploying the infrastructure necessary for the utilization of homegrown renewable energy. This is a "win-win" for the state. Market aggregation initiatives, public sector purchase guarantees, certification of equipment and vehicles for biofuels use are examples of ways to develop the market, reduce first cost and provide market certainty to the investment community.Back to the Energy Conference